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Union Official Criticizes Corporate Handouts But Endorses Business Subsidy Champion

Former GM employee and UAW official has favored giveaways to ‘corporate special interests’

The talking point “wealthy corporate special interests” has been used by liberal websites Progress Michigan and Eclectablog as well as Democratic politicians over the years when attacking Michigan’s Republicans.

The most recent iteration came from a union official who was criticizing the Michigan GOP gubernatorial ticket of Bill Schuette and Lisa Posthumus Lyons.

“The Schuette-Lyons ticket sounds like the DeVos dream team for rigging the rules in favor of wealthy corporate special interests,” AFL-CIO President Ron Bieber said, according to MIRS News. “Lisa Lyons spent her time in Lansing attacking the freedoms of working people and their families. She voted to give a massive tax break to corporations and balanced the budget by taxing the pensions of hard-working seniors and cutting hundreds of millions of dollars in education funding.”

Bieber’s background is worth noting, considering his criticism of special favors for wealthy corporations. He spent most of his career working for one of the state’s biggest benefactors of corporate welfare – General Motors.

According to the AFL-CIO’s website, Bieber is a third-generation United Auto Workers member. Bieber was the assistant director of the union’s General Motors department. Bieber joined UAW Local 730 at age 18 when he began working at the General Motors metal fabricating plant in Wyoming. He is also the son of former UAW President Owen Bieber.

And the UAW, Bieber's long-time union home, has endorsed Gretchen Whitmer for governor, who voted to authorize $4.54 billion in handouts to select corporations. Bieber's AFL-CIO Michigan also endorsed Whitmer. GM has been a large beneficiary of the corporate handouts Whitmer has supported.

Since 1999, General Motors has received a dozen corporate welfare deals that authorized actual cash disbursements of dollars from Michigan taxpayers – not just indirect subsidies like preferential tax breaks. The company also benefited from a federal bailout in 2008.

The amount of state payments to a relatively small number of companies is kept a secret by the agency in charge of these programs, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. But according to a report by the state’s Auditor General, the MEDC reported that one refundable tax credit to the company authorized disbursements as high as $2.1 billion. That deal was renegotiated and the details have not been released by state officials.

Bieber’s office didn’t return an email seeking comment on his views on state business subsidies to General Motors.

Editor's note: The headline for this article was changed.