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Guest Column: Great Lakes Tunnel Earns Strong Backing of Michigan Labor Unions

Guest Column: Great Lakes Tunnel Earns Strong Backing of Michigan Labor Unions

By:       Lee Graham, Operating Engineers 324 Labor Management Education Committee Executive Director

We all want a good job and a fair wage.  We all deserve the opportunity to provide for our families.  Those aren’t partisan issues.  Even in a rancorous election year, they are rights that unite us.

Those basic desires make it easy to understand why Michigan voters from across the political spectrum strongly back construction of the Great Lakes Tunnel.

With the election behind us, most of us have had enough of polls.  Still, one recent survey had some good news when it comes to an issue that cuts across the partisan divide.  Strong majorities of Democrats, Republicans and Independents support construction of the Tunnel, believe it’s the best solution for Line 5, and want the state to move forward immediately with permitting for the project, according to the new survey results.

Union members back construction, too, including the thousands of members of Operating Engineers 324.  In fact, pollsters found that statewide 62 percent of voters in union households want state regulators to move forward and approve permit applications to build the Tunnel – with support coming in at nearly 3-to-1.

Operating Engineers 324 has provided value to workers, businesses and communities throughout Michigan for over 100 years.  Through our superior training, our members are educated, experienced, work-ready and possess the depth of character needed to master their craft while bringing unsurpassed safety, unity and productivity to the job site.

We take extreme pride in working hard at our jobs, and being on the frontlines of Michigan’s comeback from the COVID-19 public health crisis.  We’re proud to support infrastructure developments that build that comeback, too.  You’ll find us doing road construction, catch us fixing bridges, and building tunnels, too.

You’ve probably read all about the Tunnel by now.  The Great Lakes Tunnel will move a portion of Line 5 out of the water in the Straits of Mackinac and place it into a state-of-the-art tunnel buried deep below the lakebed, providing multiple layers of protection and, according to an analysis by the state of Michigan, make the chances of a leak into the Straits virtually zero.

It’s a project that just makes sense.  Turns out, it’s a project that resonates with voters, too.  The recent poll of 800 voters conducted by TargetPoint Consulting found fishermen, outdoorspeople, boaters, conservationists and even self-described environmentalists back the project by big numbers.

Across the board, 60% support construction, with only 16% opposed.

Since an overwhelmingly bipartisan majority of the state legislature approved the project, voters were asked their level of support for the Tunnel during the state’s current permitting process, too.  Support was even stronger.

Overall, 65% of respondents hope the state moves forward with permitting quickly.  44% believed that overall the Tunnel is the “best solution” to a difficult problem and that state agencies should move forward, while another 21% agreed the Tunnel is a “great solution,” encouraging state agencies to begin permitting as quickly as possible.

That kind of sweeping, bipartisan agreement isn’t always easy to find in our polarized political climate

It’s why leading Michigan voices from labor, business and industry formed the Great Lakes Michigan Jobs coalition, have offered public comment before the Michigan Public Service Commission, and filed individual public comments with the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy, and other regulatory bodies in support of the Tunnel project.

Nearly 5,000 individuals have also filed public comment cards and petition signatures of support.  Those individuals are union members, job creators, family members, neighbors.

Michigan backs the Great Lakes Tunnel.  Our state supports our jobs and our environment.  We’re grateful so many Michiganders have workers’ backs, too.