Truth Squad on Prop 2: Fouls for everyone

Sep 28, 2012

Five proposed amendments to the state Constitution and one other referendum will appear on the ballot on election day. We’ll see a lot of political commercials in the final weeks before we go to the polls. Michigan Watch is teaming up with the Center for Michigan’s Truth Squad to look at some of those ads.

Of all the proposals, it’s likely we’ll see more about Proposal 2 than any other. Proposal 2 would amend the state Constitution regarding collective bargaining. In short, it would grant public and private employees the constitutional rights to organize and bargain collectively through labor unions.

The group Protect Our Jobs is leading the effort to get this amendment passed. According to the Truth Squad, the group has already raised $8 million, mostly from unions.

One of the TV ads features Karen Kuciel. She’s a fifth-grade teacher in the Warren Consolidated School District.

AD: “Each day when the kids leave and it’s quiet, teachers take stock.  What worked? What didn’t? It’s not just about funding. It’s class size, training, supplies, even books. And teachers negotiate all of that with the school district when they have collective bargaining.”

The Truth Squad’s spokesman, John Bebow, says the ad starts off okay…

“We thought she- that ad accurately described some of the issues regarding class size in education and how that can in some cases in the lower grades make a big difference. But, the ad went a little bit further and talked about how collective bargaining helps kids and we thought that claim was tenuous at best.”

AD: “Teachers have collective bargaining so they can fight for things like smaller class sizes and good materials to help kids learn. Collective bargaining helps our kids.”

Bebow says that's hard to prove.

“Students thrive in some districts that have collective bargaining and they don’t thrive in others. And, it’s pretty hard to draw a straight-line comparison between collective bargaining and student performance. We thought that was a stretch. We gave that ad a ‘warning’ for that claim.”

The Truth Squad also reviewed another Protect Our Jobs ad which featured teachers, a cop, a medical worker and depictions of autoworkers.

AD: “Yes on Proposal 2 doesn’t add any rights workers don’t already have. It doesn’t force people to join unions. It doesn’t put a single worker into a union who isn’t already in one. It doesn’t require anyone to pay dues.”

Bebow says that ad earned a ‘Foul’ from the Truth Squad.

“One of our concerns in that ad was the idea that this isn’t going to force anybody to pay union dues or whatnot. And, we thought that that no dues claim was a bit of a distortion in light of the standard practice of having non-membership but represented workers pay fees for the cost of bargaining.”

The other side which opposes Proposal 2 is funded mostly by business groups and Republican politicians. At this point they haven’t put up a lot of on-air ads, but Bebow says there is written material which strays into hyperbole.

“One of the claims that the anti-Prop 2 side is making is the idea that protections for students that require the suspension of teachers accused of having sex with students would be removed under this law. We think that’s a bit of a stretch. We think that’s a bit demeaning to local school boards and local school officials who will – we think – adequately protect students from the extreme outlier situation of sex with students.”

Bebow says he expects those kind of claims to pop up in any upcoming ads by the anti-Proposal 2 group. Truth Squad has called a ‘Foul’ on the written material.

He says other claims within the written material about Proposal 2 overturning restrictions on labor organizing are for the most part accurate.

Bebow says the legislature has weakened workers rights over the past few years and it’s clear Proposal 2 would swing the pendulum the other way, giving organized labor more strength.