Democratic gov hopefuls discuss union issues, wages
Detroit — Four Democratic candidates for Michigan governor laid out plans to protect Michigan’s economy before a lively crowd of union members Monday at Wayne County Community College District.
Topics ranged from raising the minimum wage and affordable healthcare to the privatization of prisons.
Candidates Gretchen Whitmer, Abdul ElSayed, Shri Thanedar and Bill Cobbs all vowed to stand behind the state’s union workers.
The forum was hosted by Service Employees International Union, which represents more than 50,000 workers in the Midwest including janitors, security officers and food service workers.
Whitmer said she will protect collective bargaining. In March, the United Auto Workers union endorsed her for the Democratic nomination and last week, the Michigan AFL-CIO said it was backing her.
“We’ve got to protect your right to unionize,” Whitmer said. “It has been under attack by the Republicans for a decade here in Michigan. You deserve the same right a CEO deserves to negotiate a fair wage.”
Thanedar said he supported raising the minimum wage to $15 and wants to tie it to inflation “so our families never fall behind.”
“I will make sure workers rights are protected,” Thanedar said. “I will work tirelessly to repeal the so-called right-to-work (laws).”
Cobbs talked about a plan to gradually roll out the $15 minimum wage by starting off at $10 and requiring employers to raise it $1 each year for the next five years.
The candidates also discussed privatization of prisons and schools in Michigan.
El-Sayed said he wants to pass legislation that ends the privatization of jails and mental health systems.
“As governor I will stand up and say public schools and public jails and public mental health have to stay public,” he said.
El-Sayed has received the endorsement from the Michigan Nurses Association.
Thanedar announced he would shut down for-profit charter schools: “no one should be profiting from our public school dollars.”
Other issues included fixing Michigan’s roads, lowering auto insurance in Detroit and Cobbs’ idea of ending Detroit’s demolition program and giving the funds to residents to rehabilitate housing.
The audience filled nearly every seat in the college’s atrium.
Henrietta Ivey said she was most concerned about the protection of unions and higher wages. Workers feel more job security when they are represented by unions, she said. “... I hope each one of them can make good on what they are saying,” said Ivey, a home-care provider. “That they actually bring about that change for unions and better wages.”
Democratic gubernatorial candidates, from left, Gretchen Whitmer, Abdul El-Sayed, Shri Thanedar and Bill Cobb gather Monday at Wayne Community College in Detroit to discuss issues that included privatizing prisons, education and auto insurance rates in...