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Workers rally in Marquette

Protests voiced over new state labor policies

April 14, 2011
By CHRISTOPHER DIEM and DANIELLE PEMBLE - Journal Staff Writers , The Mining Journal

MARQUETTE - Upper Peninsula union members and others stood 1,000 strong near the steps of the Marquette County Courthouse Wednesday and voiced their displeasure with recent, as well as proposed, legislation.

Mike Thibault, president of the Marquette County Labor Council, said he hoped Gov. Rick Snyder and members of the state Legislature got the message.

"I think the message was loud and clear from the group last night. Hopefully we'll have some impact. If not, that same energy will be carried on to the election in 2012," he said.

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Thibault said legislation the unions are concerned about include the emergency financial managers bill, a proposed repeal of the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Act and abolishment of prevailing wage.

Thibault said there was an estimated crowd of between 1,000 and 1,200 at the rally Wednesday to hear speakers including former State Sen. Mike Prusi and former State Rep. Gary McDowell.

"We were pleasantly surprised. We had anticipated maybe 600 to 700 people and it went well over that," he said.

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Thibault said union members will also attend a town hall meeting hosted by State Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba in Marquette. The meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Monday in the Marquette circuit courtroom.

Jim Claffey, a member of AFSME Local 885 who works at the Jacobetti Home for Veterans, attended the rally and said unions have already made concessions.

"The government should take a lesson from the first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln. 'A country without unions is a country bound for disaster,'" he said.

Bev Richards, a member of AFSME Local 1424, said if people "don't stand up for your rights, you don't have a right to complain."

Chris Hoffman, president of Northern Michigan University College Democrats, said members of the group attended the rally to support the unions and because one day students will be workers.

Christopher Diem can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. His email address is



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