Find all of our Election 2020 coverage and other candidate interviews here. More interviews will be added as the election draws closer.
Levin looks to defend his seat in Michigan’s 9th District.
Freshman incumbent Democratic Congressman Andy Levin has been a union organizer, human rights activist, workforce policy expert and green energy entrepreneur. He now takes that experience up against his challenger Republican Charles Langworthy in Michigan’s 9th District, which includes parts of Oakland County and Macomb County, including Ferndale, Royal Oak, Hazel Park, St. Clair Shores, Warren, Bloomfield and Sterling Heights. (Langworthy did not return the JN‘s requests for an interview.)
Until his election to Congress, he served as president of the Reconstructionist synagogue Congregation T’chiyah, and as chair of the steering committee of Detroit Jews for Justice, an organization he helped found. He lives with his wife, Mary, and their four children — Koby, Saul, Ben, and Molly — in Bloomfield Township.
Levin recently sat down for a Zoom interview with the Jewish News. Below are highlights of that conversation (edited for clarity and length).
Issues and Priorities
The health and well-being of the American people, the survival of American democracy, and life on Earth as we know it, due to the climate change crisis, are all on the ballot.
I think antisemitism is on the ballot, as well [as] the possibility for a two-state solution because the president has no interest in one. As a Zionist, I feel we must have a two-state solution if we want to have a democratic and Jewish state of Israel.
My priorities are fighting for the working families of Michigan’s 9th district and of our country. We have the worst income and wealth inequality since the robber barons, a crisis of structural racism and a crisis of global warming. We can tackle these problems. I feel incredibly hopeful about what we can do.
Just look at the legislation we passed in the House in the 116th Congress. If we come back with a Democratic Senate and a Democratic president, we could pass our bill to completely reform democracy, to stop the revolving door, reduce corruption and force sunshine on corporate spending in campaigns. We could pass our infrastructure bill, a high priority for me. We need to transform everything about the way we live, work, play, and move about this planet. There’s no more time.
We live in an ocean of systemic racism in housing, in education, in jobs, our economy, everything. What I hope for us in this moment is that we — People of the Book — read extensively about structural racism, about mass incarceration, the New Jim Crow and the school-to-prison pipeline. This implicates us all.
We’ve been holding anti-racism training among our mostly white constituents to consider how to be actively anti-racist in America in 2020. That’s something I’ll definitely be thinking about in my own life this year. I’m delighted at how many Jews are in the game fighting for racial and economic justice. I think it’s incumbent on all of us to get in there and do more.
For example, Detroit Jews for Justice is involved in the fight against water shutoffs in Detroit. I helped create DJJ, and though I don’t get to be in the trenches as much anymore, I’m incredibly proud of the work they’re doing to advance the cause of racial justice.
My thing this year is, I don’t care what I did yesterday. It’s what can I do to help make America a more just society.
The number-one thing we can do is to revitalize the labor movement. Since 1980, the increase in productivity and worker compensation has completely diverged. Benefits in productivity don’t go to workers, because today only 6% of workers in the private sector have a union. They have no voice and no power.
I think the labor movement of the future might look totally different, and I welcome that. Germany has higher wages than the U.S. and is much more heavily unionized. Yet, twice as high a percentage of their GDP comes from manufacturing than the U.S. Germany has policies that encourage innovation, buying domestically and working with their auto and aerospace companies.
Second is to increase the minimum wage so it’s actually a wage that allows people to live and support their family out of poverty, and index it to inflation. The Wage Act created a national minimum wage of $15 an hour gradually by 2025 so employers know exactly what’s coming.
Third, we need an industrial policy where we actually make things in this country for ourselves.
We also need free college for working and middle-class people—we’ve got one or more generations buried in debt for seeking higher education which is a drag on the economy and social equality. We need childcare for every family so men and women can both thrive in the workplace. And I’m a big proponent of Medicare for All—we’re the only country that ties having healthcare to your job so tightly and its ridiculous. If we had universal healthcare, it would create much greater equality and health in our society so we’d be more productive and competitive with other countries.
I think people really misunderstand the Green New Deal, which I support. It has been successful already. I’ve gotten calls from the CEOs of our big utilities in Michigan saying they’ve been able to move up projection dates for goals like being fossil fuel-free. This is because of the movement around this deal.
We’ve got to transition just as fast as we can and be completely comprehensive, looking at every area of human life: agriculture, deforestation, reforestation and transportation, including high-speed rail and mass transit.
What I want to pass are the components of the deal, like my EV Freedom Act, which would put electric vehicle charging stations across our national highway system. Let’s get specific about solar, storage and buildings and, piece-by-piece, put it together.
One of the areas I led on is testing and contract tracing. Out of 435 Representatives and 100 Senators, I’m the only one with experience running a state workforce system. So, I found my role in working out how to quickly stand up a national army of contact tracers.
I introduced the Coronavirus Containment Core Act with [Massachusetts] Senator [Elizabeth] Warren, and much of the language used in there about how to do this got put into the Heroes Act, which the House passed four months ago. We got $75 billion for testing and tracing in the Heroes Act.
This is the biggest public health crisis in the century, and the biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression. This is a moment where we have to meet the needs of the American people, and it’s a dire situation. We’re fighting hard.