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A roundup of recent Michigan newspaper editorials

September 2, 2019

The Detroit News. August 29, 2019

UAW’s Jones should stand aside

Labor Day weekend arrives with the United Auto Workers facing one of the darkest periods in its history, engulfed in an ever-growing scandal that now touches the very top ranks of the union’s leadership.

Federal agents investigating corruption within the U.S. auto industry carried out raids this week on homes of UAW President Gary Jones and former President Dennis Williams, suggesting the two are targets of the probe into bribery and kickbacks aimed at influencing labor contract negotiations.

No arrests were made, and Jones is said to be cooperating with the FBI.

Already, the feds have brought charges against nine people connected to the UAW and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. Wednesday, Michael Grimes, a former UAW official with close ties to Vice President Cindy Estrada of the union’s GM team, was charged with taking bribes in the form of cash, checks and other valuables.

The expanding scope of the investigation and the implication of Jones raises the possibility that a union that has always prided itself on being squeaky clean could be hit with racketeering charges, which could ultimately lead to government oversight of the union.

Jones deserves a strong presumption of innocence, as does Williams. The FBI often conducts raids that produce no criminal charges, and often are targeting someone other than the homeowner. And if they are charged, their guilt or innocence will be decided by a jury, not by public opinion.

Still, both supervised those who have been indicted, and at the very least they are guilty of keeping less than stellar oversight of their staff. Those scooped up in the probe include direct reporters to the two presidents, including Norwood Jewell, a former vice president of the union.

Jones and Williams are also responsible for at least some of the free-spending the FBI is also focused on, including a cottage for Williams at the UAW resort on Black Lake and conferences at luxury hotels.

Their fitness for leadership is very much in doubt. Their laxness has already cost the UAW a seat on the GM board that was held by former UAW Vice President Joe Ashton, limiting the ability of the union to protect its members from the inside of the company, a rare opportunity for an American labor organization.

Meanwhile, the UAW is in the final stages of contract negotiations with the Detroit Three. The current contract covering 1.4 million members expires Sept. 15.

After a decade-long stretch that saw record profits pouring into automaker coffers, autoworkers are expecting a significant bump in their financial package. Meanwhile, the companies are seeing economic red flags ahead, largely because of uncertainty about trade policies, and are reluctant to commit to significantly higher labor costs.

The complexity of these talks demands capable and uncompromised leaders on both sides of the table.

Jones is leading the bargaining for the UAW. His credibility as an honest negotiator is gone, thanks to this week’s raids. Members can’t have confidence that Jones is acting in their best interests, or that any contract proposal he brings to them is untainted by the gifts, favors and cash that have flowed to UAW officials for years.

Jones should step aside from both the bargaining and the leadership of the union while the criminal case is unfolding.

Certainly, the timing couldn’t be worse, with the talks reaching their closing stage. But UAW members, who could be asked to go on strike if a deal is not struck, must have full faith in the integrity of their negotiating team.

They also must be certain that Jones, who must sign off on contract details, can devote his full attention to bargaining and other union business. That will be challenging if he ends up having to fight criminal charges himself.

The FBI contends the bribes and kickbacks influenced the union’s 2015 contract negotiations with Fiat Chrysler and General Motors. Those payouts allegedly continued after that pact was signed.

This time, union members must have certainty that everyone who is seated at the table is acting only in their interests. They can’t be sure of that with Gary Jones.

The UAW president should be replaced in the talks and at Solidarity House by a UAW official who is not implicated in the federal probe. That’s a shrinking circle, but it is essential that a stand-in for Jones be named until the depth of his involvement, if any, in the corruption is known.

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The Mining Journal (Marquette). August 28, 2019

Kudos to all involved in local Project Keep Kids Warm

It’s not too early to plan for cold weather.

Yes, it’s only August, but it is the Upper Peninsula, so early planning probably is warranted.

Volunteers in Marquette County will donate their time for the 10th annual Project Keep Kids Warm winter clothing drive.

Every year, the project has provided children of 300 western Marquette County with winter clothing, a necessity in the frigid U.P. winters — and often fall and spring.

There are a few changes to this year’s annual program.

Previously, bags with brightly colored labels were delivered to homes in Negaunee, Ishpeming and Republic in late September, with collection following in October.

This year, although the project still will focus on new or gently used winter clothing such as coats, gloves, mittens, hats and boots for infants through teens, the drive will involves collection drop-boxes with posted instructions.

These drop-boxes will be set up at area schools, churches and businesses.

The goal is to streamline volunteer coordination and make it easier for donors so they don’t have to stick to the strict timeline included with curbside pickup.

It will be announced later when the drop-boxes will be put out, which is expected to take place between Sept. 29 and Oct. 9.

Program coordinator Dick Derby stressed the need for warm clothing doesn’t go away.

In a Tuesday Mining Journal article, Derby said Project Keep Kids Warm is “neighbors helping neighbors.”

He also hopes people will step up again this year to help — and we have no doubt they will.

Clothing drives for the cold weather aren’t uncommon in the region, but as Derby said, the needs always is there.

We are pleased that residents recognize that need and try to alleviate that need.

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Traverse City Record-Eagle. August 27, 201

Ironman training involves ground truth

If you want to get into shape, experts say to begin slowly with a reasonable goal in mind.

Couch potatoes don’t start with an Ironman race.

The Ironman is a different echelon of athlete, of fitness, of endurance.

Even a half-Ironman still clocks in at 70 kilometers of swimming, biking and running. It’s no small feat to complete — and, as we have learned — to host.

Sunday’s Ironman medaled in many ways: it brought an influx of inspirational athletes to our region, and offered our own, homegrown endurance racers a beautiful, familiar place to compete.

Cash registers filled in hospitality businesses. Traverse City boosted its brand across the country in its relationship with Ironman.

But every Ironman and woman knows that the end of the race is just a temporary stopping point; there’s always something to improve.

Getting around Leelanau County was frustrating to our readers trying to get to church, to town and to work. Tension on the side streets was high, with law enforcement bearing the brunt.

One Michigan State police trooper was seemingly intentionally hit by an angry SUV driver; the trooper wasn’t hurt but the 82-year-old driver is in jail, awaiting charges.

While we commend Ironman organizers and Traverse City Tourism (and ourselves) for getting the word out on the road closures and routes, we know that not everyone goes to public meetings and follows local news.

Some people might have just been visiting the area, not knowing they were checking into the Hotel California for a few hours.

So we suggest doing as the athletes do post-race — reassess and reflect knowing the ground truth.

Traverse City has a two-year agreement with World Triathlon Corp., owned by Chinese multinational corporation Dalian Wanda Group Co.

Next year, we suggest reevaluating the route to lessen impact on peninsular travel.

If the route doesn’t change, we suggest creating a signed detour and focusing outreach efforts on imparting that information to residents, race security and law enforcement.

Endurance training involves learning and adapting.

Ironman is a good theoretical fit for our community, but we need to chase our personal best.

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