WARREN, Mich. - With a Republican governor and Republican-controlled legislature passing bills that jeopardize labor's right to exist, Michigan's annual Labor Day Mobilization Luncheon this past Wednesday took on special significance. The luncheon is an annual pre-march event sponsored by the Michigan Labor History Society. This one was one of the largest ever.
Luncheon speakers and those attending expressed a determination to defend their unions and all working people from the tea party/Republican attack. They identified re-electing President Obama in 2012 as a critical task. Charles Hall, director of United Auto Workers Region 1 which hosted the event, placed it this way: "Over the next 14 months we have a lot to do, we have to fight, we have to do everything we can to win."
This year's Labor Day march will take place in Detroit on Sept. 5. The turnout is expected to be huge. Metropolitan Detroit AFL-CIO President Saundra Williams said she anticipated a crowd of over 100,000. The recent announcement that President Obama will be addressing the Labor Day crowd here is adding further excitement to this year's march.
UAW President Bob King, the luncheon keynote speaker, noted labor's concerns with the Obama administration. "Do we agree with everything the president has done? Certainly not," said King. "But there are mountains of things this president has done that benefit everyone in this room," he said.
King said there is a need for a movement that can make the president, and other elected officials, do the right thing, and he criticized those who sat on their hands after the great electoral victory in 2008. "Workers never get anything in America without a fight," King warned. "We can sit back and criticize but if we don't activate ourselves and others, we are going to see a disaster in 2012."
Congressman Sander Levin, D-Mich., also took note of those who feel Obama doesn't fight hard enough. "Take the spirit in this hall and bring it to the Labor Day march. Say to the president, you fight and we'll fight with you," advised Levin.
The effects of Republican policies on the general population came in for sharp criticism. State AFL-CIO President Mark Gaffney said one-third of Michigan's children now live in a house where no one is employed. "Banks won't lend, corporations won't invest. Our rallying cry on Labor Day should be: America needs jobs," said Gaffney.
King blasted the Republican-driven focus on the federal debt and said too many Democrats buy into their calls for austerity. The deficit is created by a "totally immoral tax structure," King said. "The deficit is not because we spend too much money on children and seniors, it's because the rich and wealthy don't pay their share," he said to loud applause.
Williams said this year's Labor Day march will have unions and community marching together. In a call to build the march beyond labor's ranks, she said, "This isn't just labor's fight, it's everybody's fight."
Photo: Bob King speaking. John Rummel/PW