Last week, the Michigan Chamber of Commerce was voted the most influential lobbying organization in Lansing for the eighth year in a row. That’s great for the wealthy corporate interests they represent, and very bad news for workers across the state.
Unsurprisingly, this group of corporate lobbyists is heavily involved in crafting and passing policies that make it easier for businesses to take advantage of their employees—and they deserve to be held accountable for it.
Back in 2013, the Chamber was proud to take credit for helping make Michigan a “Right to Work” state. Don’t let the nice-sounding name fool you—this legislation has nothing to do with freedom, or helping workers. It’s a measure designed to undermine unions’ ability to organize and bargain for higher wages and better benefits, which hurts union members and non-members alike.
More recently, they were a driving force behind the repeal of prevailing wage, a policy that guaranteed a fair wage for skilled workers hired for publicly-funded projects. Prevailing wage laws are good for workers, communities and taxpayers, and a petition drive to repeal it failed in 2015. That didn’t stop the Chamber from supporting yet another drive last year and encouraging the legislature to adopt the repeal initiative.
The Chamber is also pretty open about the fact that they don’t think Michigan workers deserve the right to be compensated for overtime. When the Obama administration proposed expanding overtime protections to more salaried employees, the Chamber vocally opposed the new rules. It’s also worth noting that then-Attorney General Bill Schuette, who has received plenty of campaign cash from the Chamber, worked with other Republican AGs to block the new rules and rob Michiganders of the right to overtime pay.
And of course, we can’t forget about last year’s lame duck fiasco surrounding minimum wage and earned paid sick time ballot drives. Instead of allowing Michiganders to vote on the proposals, Republicans in the legislature passed the popular, pro-worker reforms themselves so they’d have the opportunity to gut them during lame duck—and the Chamber encouraged them every step of the way.
The people of Michigan have had enough. We deserve leaders who represent working families, not corporate cronies willing to sacrifice our wellbeing to please the business lobbyists who bankroll their campaigns. Groups like the Michigan Chamber have corrupted our legislature and political process for too long, and it’s time for that to change.