opinion

Opinion: Michigan workers are ready to fix the roads

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John T. Greilick, The Detroit News
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Michigan’s drivers have made it clear: It’s time to fix the damn roads.

Yet those blocking real solutions to fixing our deteriorating roads, bridges and other infrastructure are now raising another bogus claim to distract from the current debate: Michigan’s skilled construction workforce isn’t ready or up to the task. 

I can tell you firsthand that our hard working men and women of the Michigan Building and Construction Council are standing by, well-trained and highly skilled, with the capacity and know-how to get to work and get the job done right.

For an entire generation, Michigan’s skilled construction workforce have waited on the sidelines, anxiously awaiting the green light to fix our failing roads and bridges. What’s been missing for years is a comprehensive road funding plan and the leadership to get the job done. 

That’s why I’m grateful Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has proposed the first real solution to fix our roads in a long time. Whitmer’s plan calls for a landmark $2.5 billion investment in fixing our roads and ends the slight-of-hand games and gimmicks that only guarantee our roads will continue to worsen and get more expensive to fix. Even key business groups like the Michigan Chamber of Commerce agree that new revenue is necessary to fix our deteriorating infrastructure.

Opponents of the governor’s plan have argued that even if her plan did pass, Michigan’s skilled construction workforce wouldn’t be ready to break ground. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The governor’s plan would instead allow Michigan’s skilled construction workforce to immediately go to work, alleviating concerns of bridge and overpass collapses that have caused serious injuries and even death in other states.   

The governor’s plan provides long-term fixes for our roads and bridges rather than the continued patchwork of short-term, Band-Aid solutions that only kick the can down the road for yet another year. 

Michigan’s hard-working, dedicated skilled construction workforce realize we’re at a crossroads as a state. We can continue the status quo, ignoring our unsafe roads and leaving jobs and economic growth on the table. 

Or, as Whitmer has proposed, we can chart a new path toward safe, reliable roads and bridges that put people to work, keep our economy humming, create opportunities for Michigan residents, and draw new businesses and families to our state.

Some state lawmakers continue to devise shell games to divert funds from critical state services and gamble with teacher pension funding as our decimated roads and bridges continue to threaten the safety of motorists more every day. 

This ill-conceived, short-sighted game plan comes with a customer guarantee: If passed, we will maintain our status of having the worst roads in the nation. 

That endangers Michigan’s drivers, is a disservice to taxpayers and hits the brakes on our state’s economic comeback.

Michigan skilled construction workers are ready to work. Are lawmakers ready to lead?

Ron Bieber is president of the Michigan AFL-CIO. 

Labor Voices

Labor Voices columns are written on a rotating basis by United Auto Workers President Gary Jones, Teamsters President James Hoffa, Michigan AFL-CIO President Ron Bieber and Michigan Education Association President Paula Herbart.

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