Labor Voices: Nissan rejects dialogue with workers

Canton, Miss. – Earlier this month, top executives at Nissan North America received a letter from supporters of the Mississippi Alliance for Fairness at Nissan (MAFFAN), a coalition of civil rights leaders, ministers and worker advocates who support Nissan employees’ efforts to form a union…

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GM confirms electric vehicle to be built in Orion Township

CHICAGO – General Motors will build an electric vehicle based on the Chevrolet Bolt concept that will be sold in all 50 states. It will be built at the Orion Assembly plant in Orion Township, Alan Batey, president of GM North America, announced today in a speech to open the 2015 Chicago Auto Show... Read More >>>

(Washington DC/Paris/Tokyo) Nissan Motor Company has refused a US government offer of mediation to resolve a longstanding dispute with the United Auto Workers (UAW) and IndustriALL Global Union Federation over the company’s anti-union practices in the United States, which the unions claim violate Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises... Read more >>>

What the U.S. Steel Industry Thinks of Ford Motor's Aluminum F-150 by Taras Berezowsky

If there’s any reason at all to be anywhere near Detroit this time of year (believe me, I’m from the Metro D and can say such things with more than passing conviction), it’s to attend or be involved in the North American International Auto Show.

If it’s not sports, it’s cars, and at least the city keeps the lights on at the Cobo Center, where the latest designs are unveiled, human models awkwardly complement the exhibitions, and concept cars are the main attraction.

(It’s where I’ve spent many hours of my youth, to be followed by a Ride to Nowhere on the Detroit People Mover and coney dogs at Lafayette.)

However, arguably the biggest story from the Auto Show this year, although quite a concept, was not exactly a concept car – it was Ford’s all-aluminum F-150 truck.

How’d That Happen?

Apparently, after designing and building the new F-150, Ford “secretly” distributed the vehicles to a number of test subjects to see if their light-weighting efforts would hold up.

“The automaker was looking to test how lightweight aluminum alloys would hold up on the job, at a gold mine, an energy utility and a construction firm…What Ford learned from 300,000 total miles convinced the world’s biggest seller of full-size pickups to make wholesale changes to the F-Series,” writes Jerry Hirsch for the LA Times.

The new F-150 weighs 700 pounds less than the previous model, featuring an engine compartment, doors, hood, side panels, truck bed and tailgate all made of aluminum alloys. The way they’re marketing the featured material is by calling it “military-grade aluminum.”

Back to Car Wars: Aluminum vs. Steel

So how do advanced high-strength steel (AHSS) producers – and the steel industry in general – respond to Ford’s move?

Should the move be seen as a huge vote of confidence from a major OEM for a lightweight substitute? Based on that F-150 decision, what does the future look like for steel vs. aluminum from steel industry’s perspective?

I posed those questions to Lawrence Kavanagh, the president of the Steel Market Development Institute (SMDI), a business unit of AISI, after a recent press conference on AHSS in Detroit.

“Ford is a great and valued customer of steel and we have been working with them for 26 years in the Auto Steel Partnership,” Larry wrote me in an email. “We continue to develop new steel lightweighting solutions and showed an example today of steel matching an alternative material part in weight at 34% less cost, and this part is on the road today.”

Indeed, according to the LA Times, Ford also upped the percentage of AHSS in its new F-150, from 23% to 77%. That’s a good move to hedge their bets for a couple of reasons: 1) aluminum is harder to stamp and weld, requiring more heat and electricity; and 2) according to a recent study conducted by MindClick Global, 90% of consumers ‘prefer’ steel-made vehicles over other materials – but of course, the study was commissioned by SMDI, so take that with a grain of salt.

But make no mistake, Ford’s bold move is still a watershed moment for the aluminum industry. “Our goal remains to minimize, if not eliminate, any lightweighting advantage of alternative materials as the business case for such materials then falls apart,” according to Larry. “This is happening and the future therefore looks bright for steel.”

News-Herald Gerrymandering is part of the game, but messing with the Electoral College isn't. by Craig Farrand

FARRAND: Gerrymandering is part of the game, but messing with the Electoral College isn’t

Published: Saturday, January 18, 2014

By Craig Farrand

“We, the people, are the rightful masters of both Congress and the courts — not to overthrow the Constitution, but to overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution.”

— Abraham Lincoln

Hello Downriver,

A follow-up to Sunday’s column:

When I stated the obvious about the state GOP creating the Senate districts that will dilute Downriver representation, I should have added a reason why.

Why did the GOP do this?

Actually, it had little to do with us at all — at least as far as being concerned about the Downriver area’s representation.

What it did have to do with was diluting overall Democratic voting and power in the state.

Which is exactly the same thing Dems have done when they’ve redrawn our House and Senate boundaries.

By linking Downriver cities with Detroit, the GOP effectively marginalized the impact of predominantly Democratic voting in these communities.

For if we collectively elect Democrats in all these seats, they remain a pitiable minority in the Senate — as they already are in the House.

If, however, no gerrymandering had occurred and city boundaries and regional strengths were respected as much as possible, Detroit would have its districts and we would have ours.

But that would mean squeezing Republicans into fewer districts.

And why would they want to do that?

Understand that this is the way the game is played every 10 years: the party in power has the crayons.


However, the state GOP doesn’t seem satisfied with playing within the political rules; it now wants to change the game altogether when it comes to national politics.

In fact, some in the state GOP want to mess with the U.S. Constitution itself.

If you haven’t been paying attention lately, there’s been a growing call among Republicans to change the way our state awards votes in the Electoral College.

If they get their way, instead of a “winner-take-all” outcome, our 16 Electoral votes would be awarded proportionally.

Currently, only two small states allocate votes that way; the other 48 use the winner-take-all approach in order to more accurately reflect the popular vote.


Because if we had no Electoral College, then winner-take-all would be the outcome.

Simple, eh?

Except the state GOP doesn’t like that idea of one person-one vote.

So instead of allocating Electoral College votes proportionally by popular vote — which most people could live with — they want to do it BY CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT.

And since we have more gerrymandered GOP congressional districts, we would experience a very unsettling result if the GOP follows through.

Consider this: President Obama won Michigan’s popular vote in 2008 and received all 16 of our Electoral votes.

He won again in 2012, and again received all of them.

However: If the GOP plan had been in place for both elections, President Obama would have received only 14 of those 16 votes in 2008.

And in 2012, the president would have received only seven votes — and Mitt Romney, who lost the popular vote, would have taken home nine Electoral votes.

How’s that for creative math?

Of course, election shenanigans are nothing new to the GOP: State Speaker of the House Jase Bolger was a central figure in a “bait and switch” campaign dirty trick in 2012.

Again, for those who don’t remember, Bolger and former state Rep. Roy Schmidt were brought before a grand jury for their roles in recruiting a fake candidate to run as a Democrat against Schmidt in a Grand Rapids race.

Just before the filing deadline, Schmidt switched from Democrat to Republican — ensuring he’d have no competition.

Ultimately, neither man was thought to have broken the law, but I hardly think that give me comfort when it comes to the GOP’s ability to twist reality to fit its ends.

So it certainly is discouraging to hear that Bolger is open to this Electoral College joke; if Michigan’s poster boy for dirty tricks likes it, be afraid. Be very afraid.

In 100 words or less: I’ve been fortunate to have reported on, worked with and gotten to know quite a few school superintendents over the years, and one thing always stands out among the best of them.

To a person, they put the safety and welfare of students above all else.

So it was no surprise to read Staff Writer Jackie Martin’s report on the weather days last week that shuttered our schools beyond the holiday break.

Every superintendent talked about keeping students safe; they’ll deal with any schedule fallout later.

For all the grief our schools take, here’s proof that their priorities are straight.

Craig Farrand is a former managing editor of The News-Herald Newspapers. He can be reached at

News Herald: What to do about the state surplus? by Craig Farrand

FARRAND: What to do about the state surplus? Politicans have ideas

Monday, January 20, 2014

By Craig Farrand

“He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lampposts: for support, rather than illumination.”

— Andrew Lang

Scottish poet

Hello Downriver,

Now it gets interesting.

What to do with a nearly $1 billion (with a “b”) budget surplus this coming fiscal year?

You could just feel the juices flowing in Lansing on Thursday night; nearly every lawmaker was salivating at the chance to issue checks to Michigan voters in time for this fall’s elections.

It was Gov. Snyder’s State of the State address and he eventually got to the spot everyone was waiting for: what to do with the money.

“It’s not about politics,” the governor said, “it’s about being a family.

“I believe, though,” he continued, “when I’ve looked at that list (of options), there’s going to be an opportunity for some tax relief.”

At that point, Lansing rumbled with the applause and foot stomping of kids just given another snow day.

It was like a fix to an addict; the lubricant of politics — money — was going to be available to bribe us.

To convince us that all is well with the world; that our saviors will make us financially whole.

Oh, and don’t forget to vote for these wonderful people who just gave you your money back.

Of course, this typically political move conveniently ignores the fact that these same lawmakers saw no problem taking the money in the first place.

Consider the following:

•The GOP-controlled Legislature felt it was important to tax retirement income on those born after 1946 — the baby boomers.

•These same lawmakers also felt it important to take away the Homestead Property Tax Credit from more than 400,000 Michigan families.

•They cut the Earned Income Tax Credit from 20 percent of the federal EITC to a mere 6 percent — a tremendous hit to working families.

•They eliminated the $600-per-child deduction — another hit.

•They eliminated the deduction for charitable donations.

Then they gave a $2 billion (there’s that “b” word again) tax break to Michigan businesses.

The shorthand?

They took money from breathing human beings and gave it to corporate creatures that are more and more being defined as “people,” too.

Using his State of the State as a campaign kickoff event, Snyder spent most of his time talking about all the great things going on, reciting one mind-numbing statistic after another.

In fact, it wasn’t until about 45 minutes into his stump speech that he even began talking about anything remotely important to the future of Michigan.

And while there was some applauding throughout the speech, his single comment about the surplus brought down the house.

Never mind that state Budget Director John Nixon has said that about $650 million of the surplus shouldn’t be used for any kind of permanent tax cut; it’s really only a one-time windfall.

However, that still leaves more than $300 million in political slush funds to bribe us come November.

For keep in mind that the budget we’re talking about begins Oct. 1 of this year — one month before Election Day.

So the saliva was dripping on the floor of the House, where everyone had gathered; I think I even saw one person slip.

I really liked the corn pone tone Snyder inserted several times in his stump speech; those references to “hard-working folk” were touching.

And out of touch: If he really cared about “hard-working folk,” then why did he take our money to begin with?

Why was it so important to slash education and impose tax burdens on “hard-working folk,” while giving away the farm (I can be corny, too) to big business.

I’ve asked the question before, and I’ll ask it again, Gov. Snyder: Where are the jobs?

You said 220,000 private-sector jobs have been created — but our unemployment rate of 8.8 percent is the third-highest in the nation.

Not good enough — certainly not after your $2 billion gift to Corporate America; the $2 billion you took from us “hard-working folk.”

Being a CPA, the governor knows how to work the numbers, and he was adept in explaining how his previous $470-per-pupil cuts to education had been more than offset by the state’s investment in Michigan’s pension fund for school employees.

According to Snyder, that investment is equivalent to a $660-per-student increase in funding.

His reasoning is that by the state investing in the pension fund, it releases local funds for use in classrooms.

Sounds good.

Except his approach does nothing to address the overarching failure of our current funding mechanism — the unintended consequences of Proposal A.

In the end, there are two nagging questions still to be answered — one short-term, one more structural.

First, how should this $1 billion surplus be used?

Certainly not as a tax refund: They took our money to make this a better state.

Well, do that!

Improve our roads, our schools; help families and seniors.

Those are sound investments for the $1 billion, don’t you think?

My second question depends on whether greedy lawmakers get their chance to refund the money to us: Why did you take it from us if you’re just going to turn around and give it back?

If you think so much about the “hard-working folk” in this state, why didn’t you leave the money in our wallets to begin with?

Next up for the governor and Legislature is to craft a 2014-15 budget that incorporates the $1 billion surplus.

My advice: Watch and listen.

In 100 words or less: Next month, the world will turn its eye to Sochi, Russia, and the 2014 Winter Olympics — and I’ve been thinking …

No, not about security concerns (and they definitely exist), but about why we hold the Olympics in a single place?

Since the Olympics are supposed to be the personification of global unity through sports — and given our worldwide communications network — why not have them held in multiple locations simultaneously?

We could host ski jumping in Marquette; LA could host beach volleyball; Boston could host rowing; France, cycling; Greece, wrestling; Japan, gymnastics; Switzerland, alpine skiing.

Now that would be great TV.

Craig Farrand is a former managing editor of The News-Herald Newspapers. He can be reached at

FARRAND: What we have to look forward to in 2014 isn’t very encouraging

By Craig Farrand

“Politics is supposed to be the second oldest profession. I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first.”

— Ronald Reagan

40th U.S. President

Hello Downriver,

Here’s something to ponder when thinking of the role of our state lawmakers in our lives.

Talking about possible legislative action this year, Kelly Rossman, a PR/marketing exec in Lansing, was quoted as saying: “I expect with the exception of tax relief, everything else will take place in lame duck.”

“With the exception of tax relief,” she said.

Well, that’s a relief: I certainly hoped our lawmakers would do what’s expected in an election year and give us some of our money back.

I mean, what better way to curry votes than with payoffs?

A bribe of sorts, if you will.

Of course, this is an unsurprising, less-than-courageous approach to dealing with what has now grown into a projected $1.3 billion budget surplus over the next three years.

A surprising, courageous approach would be to use the money to fix our state — while changing the future tax code to help the struggling middle class that makes up the bulk of our population.

For example, fix our roads and our schools.

That would be money put to good use.

But that kind of thinking doesn’t get votes come November; payoffs in the form of tax relief does.

Oh, and although that surplus is universally expected, leave it to the speaker of the House’s spokesman to qualify that information: “… if it actually exists,” Ari Adler said.

But Adler then went on to project his boss’ own intentions for 2014: “The speaker wants to look at relief for taxpayers.”

Of course he does — the good of the state be damned; for if the speaker and his GOP brethren really cared about Michigan taxpayers, they would repeal the tax on retirements, increase the minimum wage and tie it to inflation and do the other things that would make life bearable for those who make our state work.

Oh, wait, my bad: Adler didn’t really say his boss, Jase Bolger, was looking for tax relief for individuals.

Silly me: He meant more relief for corporate taxpayers that already have reaped the benefits of the best Legislature money can buy.

And with Gov. Snyder’s trust issues — he was opposed to right-to-work before he was for it; he was for transparency in government before he was against it — it’s hard to figure he’ll do the right thing.

And the right thing is to invest in our state when we can — and we can now.

We need to invest in our schools, making them work for every child; and then we need to make college affordable for every student who wants to attend.

And make career alternatives achievable for those seeking another path.

And we need to fix our deplorable roads by first reducing the weight limits allowed and then using the latest technologies to build roads deserving of a 21st century title.

That goes especially for the bridges that are now close to crumbling under our tires.

Then the Legislature needs to address the issues I mentioned earlier: an increased wage floor, help for retirees who helped build this state and assistance for those who need it.

Yes, there are other needs.

A state like ours, based in manufacturing and trying to catch up to the rest of the world, has a lot of needs.

But $1.3 billion can go a ways in addressing those needs.

Now, I know there will be those of you who will argue it’s your money and you deserve a refund.

But that’s precisely the kind of short-term thinking that got our state in this fix to begin with; the kind of quarterly report mentality that put our Big Three behind Asian long-term planning.

I thought we’d moved past that by now.

Besides, if you think this is your personal money, then you’re not much better than politicians who want to use tax relief as a way to get your vote this fall.

We’re better than they are — so let’s act like it, and demand better from them in turn.

In 100 words or less: What does it take to soften the heart of the hardest soul?

Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” remains the nonpareil tale of the hardest heart being changed by others.

So I’m still trying to understand how GOP lawmakers considering abortion insurance coverage were unmoved by state Sen. Gretchen Whitmer’s sharing of information that she had been raped 20 years ago.

Yes, many are morally opposed to abortion, but that wasn’t the argument; it was about forcing women to get coverage in advance for something they hope they’ll never have to face.

“(This) even being discussed … is repulsive,” Whitmer said.

And heartless.

Craig Farrand is a former managing editor of The News-Herald Newspapers. He can be reached at

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