When State Representative Joe Graves published his first blog in the Fenton Patch Local Voices section I was right there applauding him.
Citizens must be kept informed of what is going on, have an opportunity to weigh in on issues and understand the thought process of their elected official. What better way then with timely missives. Constituents do not have to take time to purposely go to the official website or read some reporter’s spin on the subject, if it gets covered at all. Voters find out what is important to the elected official and what he/she thinks. Evidently Graves thought the same or he would not have published his blogs.
Representative Graves has produced two more blogs since that first one. These have presented explanations of his bills and gave his contact information along with a statement of a willingness to help. Wow, it was like a politician who is actually part of the people and promoting transparency.
However, all that helpfulness and keeping voters informed abruptly halted. I am now deeply dismayed with the man. When it came to one of the most important pieces of legislation, something that made national news, the “Right to Work” (RTW) law, the people got zip, nada from Representative Graves until it was after the vote. That lack of action has negated the higher standing he gained from his blogs. He demonstrated himself to be just another politician.
Now before some skimming reader goes off half-cocked and starts sending curt missives in the comments section about whether Graves’ vote was correct or incorrect note, that is not subject here. This is about communication with constituents. In any location you will find people who will agree just because the party, Republican or Democrat, is pushing some legislation. Fenton is not Flint. It is not Detroit. Fenton has its own type of people, a specific social economic group perhaps. I feel deeply that the vast majority of Fentonites are intelligent voters. They respond more to the issue than what party is heralding the bill. All the more reason Graves should have written something before the vote. Intelligent voters want and respond best with information.
“There may be times we disagree but I value the input…” Graves wrote in one of his blogs. But he failed to put anything out there to even elicit input from constituents. To me the comments section of the Patch Local Voices is a much better guide to the thoughts of the people than what lobbyists and special interest groups report to congress members.
Following are my opinions of what Graves should have written. Now I realize from Graves point of view that my thoughts are not even to be considered. I live in Bogotá not Fenton therefore I am not even one of his constituents. The way I see it though is that if I am thinking this, there is a good chance that others are also.
The writing should not just give information but demonstrate that Graves was knowledgeable of the bill and its ramifications. He should present a balance look into RTW and then defend his vote choice answering doubts that those against his view raised.
To begin with he should have explained why the vote was being rushed through the lame duck session. There are speculations that the Republicans lost seats in Congress and they pushed the vote to make sure the legislation passes. Some consider that if the newly elected representatives taking their seats in January were to cast their ballot on the issue then it might not pass. These newly elected people supposedly represent the latest wishes of the voters. This is something the Fenton representative should have addressed. In answering the above contentions Graves would show what kind of representative he is.
Another contention by people is why such an important piece of legislation was not put before the voters. I can see reasons both for and against putting it on a ballot. But Graves should have told constituents what his or his party’s reasons were.
Income for workers is a concern of many. Fenton’s elected representative could have quoted how the Chamber of Commerce report of Indiana stated that RTW would raise incomes for residents of that state. However to demonstrate that he was doing his homework on the subject he should quote the Higgins Labor Studies report done by the University of Notre Dame which after studying the data concluded the opposite. The report states, “growth rates for real personal income where actually higher in RTW states before RTW laws were passed than after.” The report went further on to say that “Non-RTW states have a higher income than do RTW states.”
In this case Graves should have addressed in his blog why or how Michigan passing the RTW would not have the same happen, especially when the Notre Dame University researched report demonstrated that it happened in the other 23 RTW states.
Graves might have discussed that the objective was to bring more jobs to Michigan. After all many people having a 10 percent to 40 percent lower paying job might be better in his opinion than fewer people having higher paying jobs. To that end he could have quoted the National Right to Work Committee report which heralds, “In the past decade, non-agricultural employment in Right to Work states grew twice as fast compared to that in non-Right to Work states.”
In fact a person commenting on a news piece in the Fenton Patch put that forth as a fact for passing the RTW, though they did not give the source.
But to show his sincerity in helping the workers of Michigan Graves should tell that the above report worked on averages. Think of it this way, if you have one foot in a scalding hot bucket of water and one foot in a bucket of ice then, on average, you should be in great shape. A twenty-two page report done by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) explains it this way. “If Bill Gates walks into a bar, everyone in the bar is suddenly, on average, a multimillionaire.” Rather meaning there is no correlation between RTW and employment growth in individual states. Most states with RTW law actually experienced a decrease in employment.
It would be excellent for Graves to explain why the following comment in the EPI report will not apply to Michigan workers. “As states look to attract and retain employers and particularly to expand the opportunities for state residents to land middle-class jobs, the hard statistical evidence suggests that so-called ‘Right-to-Work’ laws have no role to play in this revival.”
It would also be prudent for Graves to refute the comment by Roland Zullo, research scientist Institute for Labor Industrial Relations at the University of Michigan, when he states in his paper, “Our economic problems in Michigan are due primarily to the woes of the auto industry, which RTW would not fix.”
Governor Snyder stated that the RTW is not to target unions. It would have been beneficial for Graves to explain how it is not about unions in that case, because according to comments, both those for and against RTW keep talking unions. The previously mentioned EPI report states, “RTW laws aim …to limit the effectiveness of unions in negotiating higher wages and benefits for their members.” In an interview after talking with Gov. Snyder, U.S. Representative Sander Levin said, “He (Gov. Snyder) mis-described what the issue is.”
At the very least it would have been nice for Graves to send out a Tweet about the upcoming vote. But I could not even find an account for him on Twitter.
So, is Graves really interested in being a representative of the people or is he just interested in being a politician? Time will tell, but it might be a good idea to keep a close eye on his actions and votes.
In a future writing I’ll take a look at what Graves released on his website as an explanation for his vote.