Guest Column: Michigan Labor Unions Back Line 5, the Great Lakes Tunnel

By: Geno Alessandrini, Business Manager, Michigan Laborers

December 2, 2020

There’s a lot more that unites us than divides us.  Republicans.  Democrats.  Independents.  We all want the opportunity to work a good job and earn a fair wage.  Each of us wants to provide for our families.

That’s why Michigan Laborers – and union workers across the state – so strongly back Line 5 and the Great Lakes Tunnel project. 

For more than 6 decades, Line 5 has meant good paying jobs for Michigan workers.  Building the Tunnel means even more.  During our state’s recovery from COVID-19, those jobs are more important than ever. 

That’s why we were so disappointed by an announcement this November from Governor Gretchen Whitmer that she aims to shut down Line 5 in May of 2021.

Michigan’s proud union workforce wants to be clear – Michigan labor backs Line 5 and we back the Great Lakes Tunnel, because Line 5 and the Tunnel project support Michigan labor.

We’re not the only ones who support the pipeline and the Tunnel, either.

This fall, a new survey identified the Tunnel project as one of those rare issues that truly cuts across the political 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.

Across the state, roughly 62 percent of voters in union households want state regulators to move forward and approve permit applications to build the Tunnel, too.  That support comes in at nearly 3-to-1 over opposition.

65% of voters hope the state moves forward with permitting for the project quickly, too.  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 overwhelming, bipartisan support isn’t easy to find on any issue.  It’s the kind of support that speaks to the importance of Line 5.

It’s hard to overstate Line 5’s significance to the state and to union workers.  Line 5 safely delivers the fuel that powers our job sites, that heats our homes, and that makes so many thousands of our jobs possible.  Over the last six-plus decades, it’s meant consistent, reliable work for the proud union laborers who work on and around the Tunnel and the infrastructure that supports it, too.

It’s also hard to overstate the importance of the Great Lakes Tunnel project.

The 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 protects jobs, the environment, and our affordable energy supply, and it means huge tax revenues for local communities, too.  That means jobs for teachers and classrooms, and revenues to fix our roads.

LiUNA is a Construction Union for Craft Laborers in Michigan, consisting of 7 local unions with over 13,000 members.  We’re united by contracts that guarantee fair wages, high quality training, safe jobsites and good benefits. 

We’ve worked on Line 5, we’ve worked on the building and construction infrastructure that supports it, and we’re working thousands of jobs that the fuel moving through Line 5 makes possible every day. 

We depend on Line 5 and we’re counting on the Great Lakes Tunnel.

Instead of shutting it down in 2021, let’s embrace real solutions that put working people first.  Let’s build the Great Lakes Tunnel.