Glory days: In Michigan, nostalgia for a romanticized past outweighs the reality of an economic renaissance

Amid the economic upheaval, these workers said they had found security in their union work, which they attributed to rising wages for workers across the economy – even as they still struggled to keep up with inflation.

“These unions, I think, are driving up wages,” Hauck said. “And then the rest of the companies that aren’t unionized have to follow and follow within reason, because if they don’t, they won’t have employees. So absolutely, unions play a very important role in the economy and employee wages.

But they even felt safety was threatened by the slow attrition of employees from their locals — both by workers moving and those opting out of the union in the Right to Work state.

“I wish our politicians knew, I wish they were working to get rid of the right to work here in the state of Michigan,” Evans said. “I think it’s crap. I think it destroys what we stand for, and we don’t need it. Because we’re in the rebuilding phase, trying to rebuild what it was before, and the right to work was like a punch in the jaw, you know.

“Where else do you provide a service that you decide everything you don’t want? I want your service, but I don’t think I want to pay for it. So I will withdraw from the union,” Hauck agreed. “It’s just ridiculous. The whole concept is, and was, set up to break the union.

Dan Kildee can’t be said went to the coast in his time in Washington. He’s a big guy, affable and outspoken, and he could just as well be a steward for a Flint UAW local as a deputy congressional Democrat whip. But his attitude is as practiced as his practical experience. Kildee comes from a political family and his uncle, Dale Kildee, held that seat in Congress for 11 terms.

“Oh, I’ll always vote for a Kildee,” says a white-haired woman when the beleaguered congressman rings her doorbell during a canvassing campaign outside Bay City. “Good family.”

But Kildee, like Slotkin, cut a frustrated figure during his July campaign loop in his new district. The self-styled practical progressive — a member of both progressive caucuses and problem solvers in Congress — was as likely to highlight divisions with his party as he was to pump their priorities. His ads tout his support for a gas tax exemption and defunding the police, and his first stop in Saginaw, a small former motor town north of Flint, was for city cops.

At a cafe in downtown Bay City, a small town 80 miles north of Flint, Kildee unleashed members of his own party who he said were blocking his legislation to cap insulin prices, as well than other healthcare provisions in the Build Back Better. package.

“It makes a difference what health care priorities are,” Kildee said after asking one day. “It’s not just a question of economics, it’s a moral question for me. There are people who are dead. Because they had to ration their insulin, not because it was too expensive to make. They could see the insulin bottle on the other side of the pharmacy counter. And it was literally within their physical reach, but beyond their economic reach.

If Democrats fail to push relief before midterms, Kildee could still survive, hiding his name and his familiarity with the community. But if he loses, he said there is “no doubt” his fellow Democrats, who have preserved the filibuster instead of adopting an aggressive policy, will be to blame.

“I don’t know how anyone can call themselves a conservative or a moderate, when they use the authority of the government to prevent the will of the people from becoming a policy,” he said. “It’s a radical vision. It is a dangerous view. And so, who is the moderate here? A person who stands behind the Jim Crow-era tool to prevent someone from getting life-saving insulin? I do not think so.”

David Michael, like many UAW union members from Michigan, has more sense of politics than politics. Throughout a tour of the newly renovated Lake Orion electric vehicle plant, he explained the intricacies of the details of union contracts and trade agreements, like the one with South Korea that allowed this plant to operate. in the 2010s.

But when I asked if a man wearing a “Let’s Go Brandon” shirt working the line was a Trump supporter. He looked confused.

“Tim is a Trump guy, yeah. How did you – how did you make this correlation? It’s weird, because he’s a hardcore Trump.

I skimmed through the NASCAR origin story of “Let’s Go Brandon” — the most polite conservative surrogate for the real message: “Fuck Joe Biden.”

Michael laughed. “Oh so I’m slow on this joke,” he said. “Brandon is a school district here.”

The UAW and GM both tout the Lake Orion plant as one of the fledgling success stories of America’s manufacturing renaissance — places where Michael said workers feel they are earning enough to support their families. family, even if healthcare, retirement and child care options do not. t live up to their romanticized memories.

For decades, its story has gone against the mainstream economics in America. Opened under President Ronald Reagan, the plant was scheduled to close in the early 2010s until a trade deal with South Korea gave it a new market for small cars, reviving the plant for a few years. Now it’s been converted into GM’s first all-electric vehicle assembly plant, the line has been revamped to hoist massive batteries into the Chevy Bolt EV chassis, instead of the old internal combustion engine transmissions . It now employs 1,200 people.

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