Late last week, an incredible rumor raced across Michigan: Bob King, president of the United Auto Workers, was discussing a deal with Manuel Moroun, monopoly owner of the Ambassador Bridge between Detroit and Canada.
Sources said the UAW was thinking of backing Proposal 6, an issue funded by Mr. Moroun on this fall’s Michigan ballot. It would amend the state constitution to make the construction of a new bridge to compete with his old one more difficult. In return, the Moroun family would donate to the union’s effort to pass Proposal 2, which would enshrine collective-bargaining rights in the constitution.
The idea seemed preposterous. The billionaire Mr. Moroun, who may be Michigan’s worst public citizen, is allied with the union-hating, anti-tax activist Grover Norquist in an attempt to preserve the Ambassador Bridge’s monopoly stranglehold over moving heavy freight. But the UAW didn’t deny the rumor right away.
Finally, Mr. King said that while the UAW hadn’t gotten any money from the Morouns, the union would stay neutral on Proposal 6. That position sparked outrage in many quarters, because the proposed new bridge would create thousands of good-paying union construction jobs.
Ken Lewenza, president of the Canadian Auto Workers, immediately made clear that his union is behind the new bridge, no matter what. The UAW’s reluctance to rally behind a project that would create union jobs might have sent Walter Reuther spinning in his grave.
Union leaders are angry with Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder for signing some petty anti-union legislation. But this governor, unlike many other Republicans, opposes right-to-work laws.
The UAW’s spiteful refusal to embrace a job-creating project that is clearly in the public interest is a betrayal of the spirit in which the union was founded. Mr. King, who has two more years to serve as UAW president, reportedly wants to leave a lasting legacy. This shouldn’t be it.