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The Backlash Against the GR Chamber of Commerce endorsement of Schuette begs the question, Why Now?

September 19, 2018

In the past 24 hours there has been a tremendous amount of backlash against the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce endorsement of Republican candidate for Governor, Bill Schuette.

When the GR Chamber posted the endorsement, hundreds of people responded with anger at the endorsement. In addition, several local businesses have abandoned their membership in the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce and now there is a growing list of people who have participated in a variety of Chamber programs that have signed on to a statement calling for the Chamber to renounce their endorsement of Schuette.

“Dear Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce Leadership & Policy Staff:

Your endorsement of Bill Schuette as governor of the State of Michigan is unacceptable.

Bill Schuette actively fights against equal rights and protections for Michigan residents who identify as LGBTQ. He has been complicit in the leadership who brought us the Flint Water Crisis (continuing), helped to underfund public education, continued privatizing of our water and natural resources for pennies to corporations, has fought against the EPA and limits to pollution in a state surrounded by fresh water, and the list goes on.

Moreover, the Chamber’s positioning of itself diversity and inclusion champion through programming such as the Diversity Equity Inclusion Summit and OutPro, among others, stands in stark contrast to the beliefs and policy that align with a Bill Schuette candidacy.

As alumni of Leadership Grand Rapids and many other Chamber-run programs, we the undersigned are compelled to renounce your recent endorsement of Bill Schuette for Governor of Michigan.”

In one sense, it is always encouraging when people speak out against any injustice and this statement identifies several. However, for those who follow state politics and the endorsements of the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce, this is not the first time they have endorsed a candidate that promotes policies that do tremendous harm.

Why Now?

The Chamber of Commerce has a long history of endorsing candidates and lobbying for policies that do tremendous harm. SourceWatch has great details on this history, which includes opposing minimum wage increases, maternity leave, union organizing, climate change legislation, privatization of public resources, etc. The Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce is simply a microcosm of the national entity, which makes its priority the defense and promotion of the interests of capitalism and the capitalist class.

The GR Chamber’s endorsement of Schuette is just one example in recent years, where they have endorsed politicians which promote policies that do tremendous harm. This same Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce endorsed Governor Rick Snyder. Under Snyder’s leadership Michigan has expanded its number of Emergency Managers, promoted radical neoliberal economic austerity measures (doing away with traditional public sector pensions, privatizing public services and undermining teacher unions), making Michigan a Right to Work State and essentially giving greater control over the State’s economy to corporate interests.

For those who are pissed about Schuette’s stance on LGBTQ issues, the the GR Chamber endorsed candidates who voted for HB 4188. This legislation, often framed as a religious freedom bill, allows adoption agencies in Michigan the ability to deny LGBT couples/partners/families from adopting.

In 2008, the West Michigan Policy Forum (WMPF) was created as an extension of the work of the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce. The goal of the WMPF has been to promote and lobby for specific policies at the state level that adopt neoliberal capitalist austerity measures.

Every two years the West Michigan Policy Forum hosts a major summit in Grand Rapids to promote their agenda for the upcoming year. This year’s focus is on education policy and the kind of education policy that the WMPF and the GR Chamber of Commerce are promoting is essentially what Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is trying to force on the American people.

People will point out that the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce does Diversity and Inclusion work. However, what they means by Diversity and Inclusion is that people of color and members of the LGBTQ community are welcomed to be part of the Chamber’s work, which is to promote Neoliberal economic policies that will ultimately hurt at a disproportionate level communities of color and people who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender or Queer.

Ultimately, membership in the GR Chamber of Commerce, participation in GR Chamber programs or endorsements from the Chamber should be renounced, since their primary goal is endorsing candidates that benefit the interests of the Capitalist class.

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