The state of labor on Labor Day, unions face uncertain times

The state of labor on Labor Day, unions face uncertain times

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DETROIT, Mich. (WJBK) -

Thousands of union members took part in Detroit's annual Labor Day parade. But amid the celebration, Michigan union members face uncertain times.

Click on the video player to watch Robin Schwartz's report.

You've seen the protests in recent months - fast food workers walking off the job here and across the country, demanding $15/hour, more than double the federal minimum wage of $7.25/hour. Workers are also seeking the right to unionize. A bill to boost Michigan's minimum wage to $10/hour by 2016 has not been embraced by the Republican-controlled legislature or Gov. Rick Snyder.

"The big question is whether or not we're going to see a whole lot of minimum wage workers that are still at the poverty level even though they're working 40-hours-a-week and people sliding downward or whether we're going to see opportunity and a ladder for everybody to move up," said Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) Michigan. She spent part of her Labor Day meeting with AFL-CIO union members in Detroit where they're well aware Michigan is the second worst state when it comes to wage growth over the last 30-years.

"As organized labor's membership numbers have been declining we've seen wage growth in Michigan decline with it," says Chris Michalakis, president of Metro Detroit AFL-CIO.

He says his union is regrouping and redoubling its efforts now that Michigan is a right-to-work state. A court battle over whether the much-debated law applies to state workers is currently underway. With Detroit's bankruptcy filing, there's another battle in Federal Court. Workers are waiting to see what happens with their pensions in a city that doesn't have the money to pay.

"Retirees and the working folks that work for the city, they're the heart-blood, they're the life-blood of the city," says Michalakis.

"They are not the people who made the decisions that got Detroit to this point," added Stabenow. "I do not think people should lose their pensions. When you look at somebody earning on average $19,000 a year that's not where the city or the state should start in order to balance the books."

There are plenty of major issues on the table but union leaders say they're ready to fight in court and on the picket lines.

 

 

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