DETROIT - It was a fitting backdrop to raise the demand, "Ship products, not jobs." The still active Detroit Port on the Detroit River is where union members and city residents rallied Thursday in support of Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow's Bring the Jobs Home Act.
Metro Detroit Labor Council President Chris Michalakis said he wanted to "see the port humming with Detroit-made products." The bill would stop giving companies tax credits to ship jobs overseas. President Obama also wants to end the Bush-era, job-killing giveaways, said Michalakis.
Jay McMurran, United Steelworkers District 2 Rapid Response and political coordinator, said that in the past 10 years, 50,000 factories closed and 6 million jobs were lost.
McMurran noted that during the heyday of the 1950s, 60s, 70s, and 80s, the wages paid manufacturing workers created the consumer demand that "fed the entire economy."
It was that "real economy" based on manufacturing that opened the door to both wealth and equality for many in Detroit and throughout the country.
To those who say high wages drive companies abroad, McMurran said companies already make profit in the U.S., "but how much is enough?"
Community organizer Kermit Haynes said getting back to work is the number one need of city residents.
Haynes said, "Higher ups don't look at it from that standpoint. They say we have to cut this, cut that, we don't want to raise the debt."
But he said that kind of thinking is shortsighted and the damage those cuts cause - such as closing recreation centers, schools, and turning people to crime - will eventually raise the debt even higher.
Jonathan Byrd, legislative director for the Michigan Laborers District Council, noted that getting our economy back on track is not "rocket science."
"When people don't have the extra money to buy goods, services, a house, or a car, our economy goes down. When more people have a little bit more to spend, it turns out better for everyone," he said.
McMurran said the Bring the Jobs Home legislation has a "good shot" of being passed in the U.S. Senate but the House will be a "tough nut to crack; they (the Republicans) have such a big majority over there."
Photo: John Rummel/PW