Last Friday, Michigan workers gathered in Grand Rapids to respond to an explosive Bridge Michigan deep dive exposing the devastating consequences of DeVos sellout Tudor Dixon’s tenure at Michigan Steel, a non-union Muskegon foundry. On the campaign trail, Dixon has billed herself as a company executive that had a hand in “every aspect” of day-to-day operations.
According to new reporting from MIRS, the press event hosted by Michigan Democratic Party centered on Michigan Steel being distinguished as a “dirty” and “nasty” foundry that routinely endangered its workers and failed to pay thousands in owed wages to employees up to the CEO before laying off its entire 300-employee workforce and liquidating.
Read more below from MIRS about workers’ first-hand accounts of the same kind of “wage theft” and unsafe conditions experienced by Dixon’s foundry employees, and how it is a clear example of “anti-worker mentality” she’d use to harm working families if elected.
MIRS: Dixon’s Time At Michigan Steel Concerns Some Union Members
The first thing Republican gubernatorial candidate Tudor DIXON mentions in her Twitter bio is “worked in steel manufacturing.”
Her website showcases how she “built a career in Michigan’s steel industry throughout the early 2000s,” was highlighted in 2009 as part of “Metalcasting’s Next Generation” by trade magazine Foundry Management and Technology and served as Chairwoman of the Steel Founders Society of America’s Future Leaders Committee.
Dixon worked at Michigan Steel from the time her father purchased the company in 2002 until 2009, when she left the foundry.
But following reporting from Bridge Michigan that dove into Dixon’s history with the foundry, which went bankrupt three years after she departed, several Democrat union members expressed concern about Michigan Steel policies, including failure to pay employees and safety concerns that they’ve also experienced.
Ben SMITH, a member of the electrician’s union IBEW Local 275 in Grand Rapids, shared his experience with wage theft after being pushed into taking a non-union job to upgrade three-star hotels across Michigan.
Smith said the job offered him an $2,000 incentive, but not an opportunity to turn it down. Smith, who said he didn’t want to be away from his newborn baby at the time, said he was given an ultimatum to take the job with an incentive or lose the incentive and be fired.
After taking the job, Smith said the crew didn’t have a journeyman or master electrician, and faulty equipment slowed the project.
“As you can imagine, it got canceled,” he said. “And did I receive that incentive at any point in time? No. All I got for my hard work and hours was time away from my wife and my baby girl.”
Smith said Michigan Steel workers faced similar losses when the foundry laid off its entire 300 employee workforce and liquidated in 2013.
“Because of the way it was liquidated, they will never get those wages back,” he said.
Smith added that examples like Michigan Steel are why unions are so necessary.
“The exploitation looks different today than it did 20 years ago,” he said, “but make no mistake, it happens still, and it happens in our backyard. My story happened in Grand Rapids, and the steel foundry took place in Muskegon.”
Casey ZAUCHA, vice president of the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights, said the foundry’s track record of failing to pay employees during Dixon’s tenure there concerns him.
“Some of the concern I see is just the anti-worker mentality,” he said, “meaning that she’s more for the shareholders and people that are going to profit from that business, instead of taking care of the workers that create the jobs.
“I can see her taking what she’s done at Michigan Steel to other places, or making laws that prohibit things like prevailing wage or jobsite safety checks,” he said.
Dixon’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.