Michigan labor rejects McCain’s energy policy, demands alternatives

Monroe County, Mich. – I don’t usually try to see how ‘close’ I can get to a nuclear power plant but whenever John McCain steps foot in Michigan, labor has vowed to be there to ‘greet’ him. On Tuesday, August 5, that took me to the front gates of the Michigan Fermi II nuclear power plant McCain was visiting.

To ‘greet’ the Republican candidate, Monroe Democratic Party County Commissioner Jerry Oley brought an oversized check made out to John McCain from ‘Exxon and friends’ for $2 million dollars noting on the memo line ‘Thanks for staying in the tank for oil.’

Oley informed the crowd that in June alone, McCain raised more than $1 million from oil companies, most of which came after he changed his position and announced support for off shore drilling. Ten Hess corporation executives (one of the nation’s top five oil companies) and members of the Hess family each gave $28,500 to help McCain’s Presidential campaign.

McCain’s visit came a day after Barack Obama’s visit to Lansing, Michigan where he unveiled his ‘New Energy for America Plan,’ that offered immediate relief in the form of an ‘Emergency Energy Rebate’ of $1,000 per family or $500 per individual. It also included working with the auto industry to increase fuel efficiency, investing $150 billion to create clean energy technologies and five million new jobs, and taking a ‘use it or lose it’ approach to existing oil company leases (68 million acres go unused) and other measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Brent Gillette, State Field Director of the Michigan AFL-CIO told this reporter a McCain Presidency would result in the same policies that have been wrecking America all along. ‘We in the AFL-CIO feel that we need a change and we need someone who will champion working family’s issues. We have to change the rule makers, the people that allow the erosion of jobs offshore. We need to make that change with Barack Obama.’

Gillette said the Employee Free Choice Act is a big issue because ‘a lot of workers in our country would love to organize, would love to have that collective power and strength, but are feeling very intimidated.’ Far too many of our country’s workforce cannot even organize because Bush made their joining unions illegal by executive order and Gillette asked, ‘In a country of democracy and freedom, how can you make those kinds of policies?’

James Hunter, Political Action Coordinator for the Metropolitan Detroit AFL-CIO, said this entire election cycle is ‘forcing people to think about how their lives are being affected by what is going on in the outside world.’ It requires people ‘to get off of square one’ and see the bigger picture Hunter indicated that this process can take time and explains why some are still undecided.

But Hunter remains optimistic. ‘The pendulum is swinging back in our favor. There’s something afoot here and everybody is catching a little part of that breeze. It’s refreshing.’

Hunter pointed out that McCain has bailed out on many groups he claims to support. Hunter is a 12-year military veteran and notes ‘John McCain has done absolutely nothing for veterans.’

To the question what would a McCain presidency mean, United Steelworkers representative Al Cholger said ‘continuing speculation that has driven up oil prices and a missed opportunity to transform the Michigan economy into a green economy. It would be deadly for Michigan workers.’

‘We’re standing in the shadows of the cooling towers and McCain is using this visit to focus on nuclear power which is another high profit, low value source of energy’ added Cholger. Looking at the wind blowing steam from the cooling towers he indicated that if there were row after row of wind energy generators, the same workers and the steelworkers could build platforms and create as much energy as is generated by the plant here.

He went on to say that ‘Michigan workers will benefit from the production of wind and solar energy because Michigan imports so much energy in the form of oil, coal and natural gas – things we don’t produce here.’

Kelly Correy of Lincoln Park is a peace and environmental activist who in her own words is ‘all about alternative energy.’ She struck a similar theme to Cholger by saying that ‘in Michigan, we have the manufacturing capability. With auto plants being shut down, we could be putting people back to work, building both green cars and the alternative energy needed to power them and our communities.’

Dan Farough from Progress Michigan (part of the Blue/Green Alliance) said that McCain has a terrible Congressional record of offering tax breaks to big oil and protecting the profits they make on the backs of Michigan families. His group works to hold public officials accountable. One can imagine they’ve had their ‘hands full’ the last eight years.