Sen. Gary Peters at the UAW picket line in Lansing, Oct. 1, 2019 | Laina G. Stebbins
U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Twp.) made appearances in Lansing Tuesday morning, which included a question and answer session with the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce at a local brewery before a visit with striking General Motors workers on the picket line.
The Advance spoke with Peters after fielding questions on a variety of issues from members of the Lansing chamber, who were packed inside Lansing Brewing Company to meet with the senator on Tuesday. Question topics ranged from the importance of funding higher education to lowering prescription drug costs to regulating autonomous vehicles.
The Lansing events were not officially tied to Peters’ 2020 reelection, in which he’s likely facing Republican businessman John James.
When asked whether he supports the U.S. House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, Peters did not endorse it, but called the facts “troublesome.”
“Well, the process is going to move forward,” he said. “It’s important to collect all of the facts regarding the situation, and certainly what facts are out there are very troublesome. There’s absolutely no question about that.”
As of late September, all Democratic members of the Michigan U.S House are on board with the impeachment process, as is U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Lansing).
If Trump did indeed pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to help Trump with his own 2020 reelection efforts by holding $400 million in foreign aid above his head, Peters said it would be “clearly wrong” and “very, very troubling.”
“I think we just have to see where that where the facts lead,” he said.
Should the U.S. House send articles of impeachment over to the Senate, he will make his decision based on the facts presented — “Like I would hope any juror would, in any kind of case before them,” Peters said.
In any case, Peters has his sights set on Democrats winning Michigan in 2020 after Trump took the state three years ago.
“We should learn from the lessons of 2016, that you can’t take Michigan for granted,” Peters said. “Our presidential candidate, whoever he or she is, needs to be in Michigan, campaigning aggressively here.”
“The issues that are important to Michiganders are issues that are core values for Democrats,” Peters said. “And when we run on that, we win.”
Peters said he isn’t picking favorites out of the large field of Democratic presidential candidates just yet, and is not currently planning to endorse any of them.
“My favorite [candidates] are the candidates that will win Michigan,” Peters laughed.
After the brewery stop, Peters made his way to General Motors’ Lansing Grand River Assembly complex, where some of the more than 40,000 United Autoworkers (UAW) members have now been striking against GM for more than two weeks.
“This is about working people across the country that say we need to stand up for fair wages and benefits,” Peters told reporters as he stood along the picket line.
“We hope this strike comes to an end as quickly as possible, but I know there’s still some really key issues that are standing in the way of that happening,” he said, adding that rights for temporary workers are among those important sticking points.
Workers with temporary status “get significantly less wages, less than half. They don’t get a pension, they don’t have bonuses,” Peters said. “The men and women in the UAW say if we’re all doing the same work, we should all be treated the same, which I think is right.”
Peters praised the striking UAW members for sacrificing their time and pay for their fellow workers.
“They are standing up for those who don’t have a voice right now,” Peters said. “That’s about solidarity. That’s the strength of the labor movement, where everybody stands together even if it doesn’t impact them personally. If it impacts the worker who’s standing right next to them, they’re standing with them. And they’re doing that here today.”
Hours after Peters’ appearance at the picket line, the UAW announced in a letter to union members that it had rejected GM’s latest offer. The letter to union members read, in part, that the proposal from GM “did not satisfy your contract demands or needs. There were many areas that came up short like health care, wages, temporary employees, skilled trades and job security to name a few.”
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