You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Mon, Dec 17, 2012 : 3:38 p.m.

Ypsilanti to consider terminating membership with Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti Regional Chamber of Commerce

By Katrease Stafford

An Ypsilanti City Council member is seeking to terminate the city’s membership in the Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti Regional Chamber of Commerce in an effort to condemn the policies held by the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, which openly supported the right-to-work legislation.


The Michigan Legislature's lame duck session saw the passage of many controversial bills, chief among them the state's new right-to-work law.

Ryan J. Stanton |

Council Member Pete Murdock said he will bring forth a resolution Tuesday to ask the council to vote to withdraw its membership from the local chamber, which is a member of the of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce.

"The chamber of commerce has consistently taken positions contrary to the people we represent … why should we remain members?" Murdock said.

Specifically, Murdock said he believes the Michigan Chamber of Commerce supported passage of right-to-work legislation, opposed increasing minimum wage, supported the elimination of personal property tax and opposed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Earlier this month, the Michigan Legislature approved bills that would make Michigan the 24th state with a right-to-work law that prohibits unions from collecting dues or fees from workers as a condition of employment.

“The Michigan Chamber supported passage of Freedom to Work legislation because it is good public policy that will have a significant impact on job creation and business growth,” said Rich Studley, President and CEO of the Michigan Chamber. “We are confident this new law will benefit both employees and employers across the state.”

Murdock said the Michigan Chamber of Commerce has spent millions of dollars lobbying for those legislative changes. Although the city's withdrawal from the local chamber would likely have little practical impact, Murdock said the action would send an important message.

"It's symbolic," Murdock said. "I think symbols are important though and will basically send a message to my constituents that we're not going to be a part of (an organization) that opposes our interests."

Democrats across Washtenaw County have openly criticized the passage of the legislation.

Mayor Paul Schreiber said he is in favor of the sentiment in regards to the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, but against the action that would eliminate the city's membership with the A2Y chamber.

"They do a lot of things locally," Schreiber said. "They help businesses. They don't lobby in Lansing and they don't have a PAC. They're all about us and helping businesses be successful. They haven't always agreed with us, but they're certainly not part of the aggressive right wing agenda that the Michigan Chamber has."

In an email to council members, A2Y Chamber vice president of government relations Andy LaBarre said he understands the frustrations and that it is not the first time where the "poor choices" of the Michigan and U.S. chambers have reflected negatively upon the local chamber.

LaBarre also emphasized the chamber is a separate entity and is not chartered through either of them or bound in any way. LaBarre said it is not a member of the U.S. Chamber, but it is a member of the Michigan Chamber because it provides access to the Michigan Association of Chamber Professionals.

Thumbnail image for Pete_Murdock_2010.jpg

Pete Murdock

The A2Y Chamber does not contribute to the Michigan Chamber PAC and it does not have a PAC of its own, according to LaBarre, who said the A2Y chamber did not endorse the right-to-work legislation or oppose the Affordable Care Act.

"Several local labor unions are members of the A2Y Chamber, and they are valued as members and for all the economic benefits they bring to our community and our businesses," LaBarre wrote. "The A2Y chamber values our relationship with the city of Ypsilanti and its community members."

The A2Y chamber, according to its website, is a 1,300-member community organization that facilitates and advocates on behalf of its members through its services and programs. Schreiber said the chamber offers networking opportunities and events as well as leadership development.

Schreiber said he does not plan to support this resolution as it stands.

"I would support the resolution if it involved condemning the policies of the Michigan Chamber, but I won't vote to resolve our dues."

The city pays an annual membership fee of $328.50 to the local chamber. Schreiber said while pulling out would have a minimal monetary impact, the symbolic impact would be vast.

"It's all about partnerships and if we say we're pulling out, that's guilt by association," Schreiber said. "If someone is going to want to open a business and the city isn't a member, how friendly is the city to businesses? It doesn't mean that just because you're business-friendly means you agree with personal property taxes."

Murdock said he believes its "nonsense" to believe that by not being part of the organization, the city isn't business-friendly.

"We're not members of the NAACP, but does that mean we're not civil rights friendly? Murdock said. "It doesn't mean that. If you look at our position and the tax benefits we give businesses, it's a little hard to say that."


Andy LaBarre

Amy Biolchini |

Murdock said individual businesses still would be able to be part of the chamber if they chose to, so they would not directly be impacted. Schreiber said the chamber would still offer its services to businesses in the Ypsilanti area.

"If the mayor wants to be a member, he can pay his dues and be a member," Murdock said. "I'm a member of several organizations the city isn't. What this does is sends a message that we don’t want to be part of an organization that consistently goes against Ypsilanti residents... If they want to paint it a different way, they can."

Council Member Brian Robb said while he would like to learn more about the resolution before he decides which way he will vote, to some degree, he believes Murdock is "absolutely right."

"The chamber exists to serve its members," Robb said. "My concern is what are our affiliations and how do we define who we join?"

Like Murdock, Robb pointed out the fact that the city is not part of several other business related organizations such as the Depot Town Merchants and the Downtown Association of Ypsilanti. Robb said the city is a member of many organizations, but almost all are comprised of municipal and other public sector entities.

Robb and Murdock said the chamber is the only organization the city is a member of that is not primarily made up of public sector entities.

This whole idea that the fact we wouldn't belong makes us anti-business, that logic is just absurd," Robb said.

LaBarre said its "vitally important to the chamber that it has a working relationship with the city." LaBarre said former city manager Ed Koryzno was a member of the chamber’s public policy committee.

"... Just this week that committee met with City Manager Ralph Lange and City Planner Teresa Gillotti, to get a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities Ypsilanti faces and to find areas where we can work together," LaBarre wrote. "The A2Y Chamber would view it as a major blow if the city of Ypsilanti were not a member. The dues are not the issue, it’s the message of losing the city of Ypsilanti that would be the greatest setback."

Katrease Stafford covers Ypsilanti for her at or 734-623-2548 and follow her on twitter.


Martin Church

Tue, Dec 18, 2012 : 6 p.m.

Let's see if I get this right. Murdock wants to remove the city of Ypsilanti from an organization because it does not support his values. And yet he is willing to denied people of the same right when it comes to union membership. Sounds like a double standard to me. But then again Mr. Murdock does not mind discriminating against members of the community because of their associations or beliefs. I would like the right to hold the union accountable for their lack of actions. the only option I have is to withhold dues, but with mr Murdock I can not even do this. By the way I was not allowed to vote for the Mr. Murdock opposition in august because he opposed the charter amendment to get rid of party politics.


Tue, Dec 18, 2012 : 4:24 p.m.

"Council Member Brian Robb said while he would like to learn more about the resolution before he decides which way he will vote, to some degree, he believes Murdock is "absolutely right." Brian Robb thinks everything Murdock says and does is absolutely right. If I didn't know what they looked like, I would think that they are one and the same.


Tue, Dec 18, 2012 : 3:48 p.m.

Both the US Chamber and the MIchigan Chember are fairly extreme right-wing organizations. They are pro-business only in the narrowest sort of ways, e.g. against restrictions on pollution, against businesses paying any taxes, anti-worker. Anti-American IMHO. If the Ann Arbor - Ypsilanti Chamber helps local businesses and doesn't send money to the Michigan Chamber, why doesn't it disaffiliate and change its name?


Tue, Dec 18, 2012 : 2:36 p.m.

Looks to me like Murdock wanted to shoot something and chose the handiest target. Maybe cooler heads will prevail.


Tue, Dec 18, 2012 : 1:22 p.m.

What a joke Pete Murdock is. He just takes one headline grabbing issue and runs with it with no regard to facts. Pete is apparently too thick to understand that there is no political, philosophical or organizational tie between the A2Y Chamber and the state Chamber. He would much rather throw a tantrum against a group that does an incredible amount of good locally and has a distant tie to another group that HE doesn't happen to agree with. Picking on the A2Y Chamber that does so much good in this community is absolutely ridiculous. I hope that if Ypsilanti is stupid enough to vote to drop their membership that the A2Y Chamber stops organizing and supporting events like Ypsi Pride Day where they come in and help clean up the city of Ypsilanti. Murdock is just a typical short-sighted, cheap-shot politician that hollars about minutia to try to take everyone's attention away from the fact that his city is in disarray. With representatives like him, it's no wonder that Ypsilanti is such a mess.


Tue, Dec 18, 2012 : 1:02 p.m.

I think cutting ties is a very good thing. The Chamber has a long history of being anti-worker. Perhaps if enough businesses and municipalities cancel their memberships, the Chamber will begin taking a more moderate stance on some of these issues. Regardless, I would have a lot of trouble using my organization's hard-earned dollars paying dues to the Chamber given its anti-worker agenda.


Tue, Dec 18, 2012 : 12:38 p.m.

Just another example of special interests having more control that the electorate over the elected officials. Unions represent such a small miniority of the population yet have substantial control of our governemtn or at least what used to be our government................


Tue, Dec 18, 2012 : 12:10 p.m.

Most understand that the positions taken by the Chamber of Commerce, an organization representing businesses, are in the best interest of local, state, and national commerce. Not necessarily in the best interest of labor unions. As an elected member of the City Council, Mr. Murdock has put himself in the difficult position of having to be fair-minded and to represent both business (commerce) and individual citizens. By taking a position against the best interest of businesses he only exposes his personal ideology and not the prime interest of a significant group for which he should strive to understand and fairly represent.

Ben Petiprin

Tue, Dec 18, 2012 : 12:50 a.m.

I hope this passes. Ann Arbor seems to have been trying to slowly absorb us since the recession hit. Maybe this will slow them down.


Tue, Dec 18, 2012 : 12:43 a.m.

The Michigan Chamber of Commerce supports policies that are unidirectional clearly benefitting their members without any concern, consideration or interest in the overall welfare of the citizens

Chase Ingersoll

Tue, Dec 18, 2012 : 12:09 a.m.

Oh Ypsilanti, you are fun to watch, in a train wreck sort of way...


Tue, Dec 18, 2012 : 3:07 p.m.

I hate to say it, but I agree with this one. Sounds like someone not getting their way so everyone else is gong to suffer. Bad move on this part.


Tue, Dec 18, 2012 : 12:07 a.m.

I'm glad to see this. The way I figure it, if we are grading on the curve, this make the AA city council look just a little less crazy. Is Ypsi considering some sort of idling ordinance as well? Maybe they could buy some land in Dexter or some ugly "art" for extra credit?


Mon, Dec 17, 2012 : 11:41 p.m.

Good job City of Ypsilanti. Hope this passes! Wonder will Ypsilanti Township follow your lead?


Mon, Dec 17, 2012 : 10:58 p.m.

I'm waiting to see what the Phoenix City Council thinks about this before making up my mind.


Mon, Dec 17, 2012 : 10:26 p.m.

Maybe I missed it, but which vacant factory was Mr. Murdoch standing in front of, when he made his demands? Is Mr. Murdoch only concerned for 17.5 percent of the population? I would be more impressed, if Mr. Murdoch accepted the situation (right or wrong), and continued to perform the work of representing his constituents. Fix roads, secure our schools, and work to get the city's budget in the black. All this grandstanding is counterproductive, and irrelevant. Leave your politics, and ego at home, sir.


Mon, Dec 17, 2012 : 10:35 p.m.

Couldn't agree more. Once again Ypsi City Council wasting time on personal ideals while avoiding dealing with the real issues of the city.

David Cahill

Mon, Dec 17, 2012 : 9:35 p.m.

This is just one of the many chickens coming home to roost because of the Michigan Chamber's extreme right-wing agenda. It's good to know that the A2Y Chamber is independent of the crazies in Lansing.

Alan Goldsmith

Mon, Dec 17, 2012 : 8:55 p.m.

Andy LaBarre: nice profiles in courage moment there. Looking forward to more of this kind of "leadership" when you join the County Commission.