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Editorial: Whitmer favors union, despite inferior bid

State government should be the best steward possible of taxpayer funds. Unfortunately, that's often not the reality. Case in point is an $8 million workforce training grant that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer awarded to a union ally. 

Whitmer did this even though the AFL-CIO's bid was more costly and offered to do less with the money than a competing proposal.

In early March, Whitmer announced the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity had awarded the Michigan AFL-CIO’s Workforce Development Institute a grant to prepare workers for apprenticeships in the construction industry.

More: Editorial: Whitmer restores union wages at taxpayer expense

Residents ought to know whether they're getting a good deal or paying for the Whitmer administration’s pro-union policies and political favors. In this case, it seems to be the latter. 

It addition to costing taxpayers, it is also unfair to competitors who bid on the project. 

State Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, charges Whitmer used the grant to cozy up to campaign donors.

“It appears Gov. Whitmer vetoed our bipartisan bills to cut taxes because she’d rather hand out taxpayer dollars to special interests she hopes will help her reelection,” Shirkey said in a statement to The Detroit News. “Michiganians deserve better.”

According to information another media outlet obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, a Detroit company called DiverseNote 1 promised to train 1,000 participants compared with the union’s program size of 640. That company also said it would offer double the training time — 16 weeks instead of the AFL-CIO’s eight. In addition, DiverseNote 1 said it could find more diverse candidates for the training.

The AFL-CIO’s winning bid will cost the state $12,500 per worker trained, while the DiverseNote 1 said it  could do it for $8,000 each.

In other words, the state is paying at least 55% more for what seems like a lot less. The AFL-CIO proposed to fulfill the minimum requirements while DiverseNote 1 proposed the maximum, but still lost the bid.

It's worth noting that two of three LEO employees, who were not appointed by Whitmer, found the union bid to be superior to that of DiverseNote 1. 

“There could be a quality difference,” says Steve Delie, director of labor policy at the Mackinac Center. “But if these are comparable programs, that’s concerning.”

This grant is not an isolated instance of union favoritism from the Whitmer administration. LEO was criticized last year for announcing it would hold a “how to organize a union” event and an executive leader of LEO continues to maintain union membership.

Also concerning is that part of the union’s winning proposal includes training specifically on “labor studies covering labor union history and development,” which seems unnecessary for an apprenticeship-training program. 

Michiganians deserve to know what they’re paying for, and in this case it very well might be Whitmer's desire to reward her union supporters.