right to work

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This week in Michigan politics, Christina Shockley and Jack Lessenberry discuss the issue of dredging in Michigan’s harbors, a package of bills that would make Michigan a more immigrant-friendly state, and how lawmakers have backed off from punishing colleges and municipalities for negotiating contracts before the right to work law went into effect.

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House Republicans won't push right-to-work penalties
 
"State House Republicans have given up on efforts to punish school districts and other public employers that agreed to labor contracts that delayed the effects of Michigan’s right-to-work law. The House GOP majority allowed budget bills to move forward without threatened reductions in state payments," Rick Pluta reports.

Democrats introduce legislation for immigration reform

"Yesterday, state House Democrats introduced a package of bills they say would make Michigan a more immigrant-friendly state. Among other things, the legislation would provide in-state college tuition for some undocumented students and create an office to coordinate services and resources for immigrants," according to Jake Neher.

Lawmakers move forward in passing state budget

"The Republican-controlled House today is planning to approve its entire spending plan for state government along with schools and colleges. The GOP-led Senate is expected to OK about half of its budget plant, and follow with the rest later. The moves will set the stage for negotiations in May with a goal of finishing up by June," the Associated Press reports.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Update April 23rd, 2013

State House Republicans have given up on efforts to punish school districts and other public employers that agreed to labor contracts that delayed the effects of Michigan’s right-to-work law.

The House Republican majority allowed budget bills to move forward without threatened reductions in state payments.
    
State Representative Joe Haveman (R-Holland) chairs the House Appropriations Committee.

"We decided this was the time to back off and say, 'let’s let it go.' We made our point. That’s as much as we can do right now," he said.

The effort did, however, dissuade some universities and schools from agreeing to the contracts.

"We wanted to limit or really restrict people from going into new contracts to circumvent right-to-work, and when you look at the number of colleges, schools, local jurisdictions, there were so few that did it, we think we accomplished what we needed to," Haveman said.

Haveman says, in some cases, the extended contracts resulted in savings to taxpayers.  Contracts in place before the law took effect on March 28th have to be honored.

There’s at least one lawsuit challenging a contract extension.

March 19th, 2013 - State lawmakers move to cut school and university funding over right-to-work debate

Some Michigan universities could lose 15 percent of their state funding over new union contracts. A state budget panel today voted to sanction schools that approve long-term contracts before the state’s new right-to-work law takes effect.

That’s unless the contracts include cost savings of at least 10 percent.

Representative Al Pscholka  chairs the subcommittee that passed the university cuts.

“What we are concerned about are these long-term contracts, really meant to kind of circumvent state law, that don’t give any savings to taxpayers, and just pass along more and more expenses to students, taxpayers, and parents.”

Representative Sam Singh is the top Democrat on the panel. He says the schools did not break any laws and should not be punished.

“The management has been negotiating with their employee groups and have actually been getting cost savings for the general public. And we should be allowing them to do that instead of meddling in their affairs.”

Wayne State University and the University of Michigan could each lose tens of millions of dollars in state funding if the cuts are passed.

The state’s right to work law does not take effect until the end of the month.

Matthileo / Flickr

This week in Michigan politics, Christina Shockley and Jack Lessenberry discuss the possibility of improving Michigan’s public defense system, and lawsuits challenging the state’s emergency manager law and right to work law for violating Michigan’s open meetings act. They also talk about the potential for a rapid transit system in southeast Michigan.

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House and Senate plans for Department of Human Services differ

Republicans in the state Senate have approved a budget which would cut about 270 jobs from the Michigan Department of Human Services. This plan contrasts a more drastic budget cut passed by a House subcommittee yesterday which proposes eliminating more than 1,000 jobs from the agency. The Department of Human Services handles things like the state's child welfare, juvenile justice, and food assistance programs.

Governor Snyder hoping for a bipartisan solution to fixing state roads

Governor Rick Snyder is looking to Democrats to help design a bipartisan solution for fixing the state’s roads.

“Republicans control the House and Senate, but have not reached a consensus on how to raise the needed money. The governor says he’s asking Democrats as well as Republicans to put their ideas on the table in hopes of forging a deal,” Rick Pluta reports.

Disagreements over right-to-work sanctions

Sanctions for schools and colleges that ratified new union contracts were not included in state Senate budgets passed yesterday.

“Republicans in the state House want to punish schools for signing long-term contracts that would get around the state’s new right-to-work law. A Senate budget subcommittee on community colleges left the plan out of its recommendation,” reports Jake Neher.

American Panel

If you are a working woman in Michigan, you will average 73 cents for every dollar made by a man, according to a study recently released by the American Association of University Women. 

Michigan women rank seventh among the states and Washington D.C. in the wage gap between men and women, but what does that mean? What is it about Michigan that might lead to this gap?

And, as Michigan becomes a Right to Work state, what effect will that have on the wage gap?

Michigan Radio's Cynthia Canty was joined by the President of the American Association of University Women in Michigan, Janet Watkins.

Watkins explained the study, and addressed the effect of the gender wage gap among varying industries and ethnicities throughout the state of Michigan. 

You can get more information about Equal Pay Day at www.aauwmi.org.

To hear the full story, click the link above. 

One thing was clear from the moment right to work was rammed through the legislature in a single day. Lawsuits were inevitable. Not just because of the controversial nature of the law, but the way in which it happened. And yesterday, opponents won their first small, but potentially significant victory.

The ACLU, joined by a number of Democratic legislators and others, sued the state, saying the right to work law should be declared null and void because the way in which the law was passed violated the state Open Meetings Act.

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Michigan Supreme Court to consider city ban on medical marijuana

The Michigan Supreme Court will consider the legality of a zoning ordinance that prohibits the use, manufacture or cultivation of medical marijuana in the city of Wyoming.

“Justices want to know if the zoning ordinance is superseded by Michigan's 2008 voter-approved medical marijuana law,” according to the Associated Press.

Right to work lawsuit allowed to move forward

“An Ingham County judge says a lawsuit seeking to repeal the state’s new right-to-work law can proceed. The suit says the Legislature violated the Open Meetings Act when it closed the Capitol as the bills were debated,” Jake Neher reports.

Lawsuit over criminal defense system proceeds

The Michigan Court of Appeals will allow a long-running lawsuit challenging the system of appointing lawyers for poor criminal defendants to continue.  

“In a 2-1 decision released Wednesday, the court says a lower judge was okay to reject the state's contention that the case shouldn't be granted class-action status. The suit says the rights of poor people have been violated because of the paltry pay for court-appointed lawyers,” the Associated Press reports.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

An Ingham County judge says groups hoping to repeal Michigan’s new right-to-work law can move forward with their lawsuit. Judge William Collette today rejected the state’s request to dismiss the case.

Collette had tough questions for state officials at the hearing. But he also told the ACLU of Michigan and union groups they have an “uphill battle” going forward in the case.

ACLU Attorney Michael Pitt says that doesn’t worry him a bit.

“I’ve heard that from judges for 39 years as a lawyer, and somehow I’ve been able to climb uphill and win the cases.”

Jake Neher / MPRN

Update 11:45 a.m:

An Ingham County judge says a lawsuit aimed at repealing the state’s new right-to-work law can proceed. This morning, Judge William Collette rejected a motion by the state to have the lawsuit immediately dismissed.

The lawsuit says the Legislature violated the state’s Open Meetings Act when it shut members of the public out of the Capitol as right-to-work bills were debated and passed.

ACLU of Michigan Attorney Michael Pitt says the ruling means they can now gather more information to build a case.

"So that the public will understand once and for all what happened, and how the Legislature conducted itself in a highly inappropriate way on December 6."

State Attorney General Bill Schuette says hundreds of citizens were in the House and Senate chambers as lawmakers took up the bills.

Joy Yearout is a spokesperson for Schuette. She says the judge’s decision is not a major setback.

"He has every right to lay out the parameters as to what evidence he needs before he can make a decision. That being said, we’re fully confident that after he reviews the evidence, which at this point we don’t expect there is much evidence to suggest violation, that he’ll uphold the law."

Judge Collette did dismiss from the case the Michigan State Police Captain who ordered the doors of the Capitol closed.

There are at least two other lawsuits seeking to repeal the new law in state and federal court.

10:50 a.m.

An Ingham County Circuit Court judge has denied the state attorney general's request to immediately dismiss a lawsuit to repeal the state's new right-to-work law.

The ACLU of Michigan says the new state law should be tossed out because it was passed in violation of the Open Meetings Act. The suit says lawmakers deliberately locked members of the public out of the state Capitol as the legislation was introduced and passed in December.

State Attorney General Bill Schuette says police stopped letting more people into the building due to safety concerns.

Jake Neher will have more on this story soon.

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Right to work goes to court

"An Ingham County judge today will decide whether to let an anti-right-to-work lawsuit go forward. The ACLU of Michigan says the new state law should be tossed out because it was passed in violation of the Open Meetings Act. The suit says lawmakers deliberately locked members of the public out of the state Capitol as the legislation was introduced and passed in December," Jake Neher reports.

Michigan gets a better credit rating

Two credit rating agencies have upgraded their outlook for Michigan.

"Yesterday Fitch and Standard & Poor’s joined Moody’s in upgrading the state’s credit rating. An improved credit rating may help the state get more favorable rates when it needs to borrow money," Steve Carmody reports.

More homeless students in Michigan

"The state Department of Education says Michigan has seen a 66 percent rise in homeless students over four years. More than 37,500 homeless students attended Michigan schools in 2011-12, up from about 22,600 in 2009-10," the Associated Press reports.

Lawsuit to toss out right-to-work goes to court this week

Apr 2, 2013
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

An Ingham County Judge tomorrow will decide whether to let an anti-right-to-work lawsuit go forward.

The ACLU of Michigan says the new state law should be tossed out because it was passed in violation of the Open Meetings Act. The suit says lawmakers deliberately locked members of the public out of the state Capitol as the legislation was introduced and passed in December.

ACLU Attorney Dan Korobkin says members of the state House sent staffers to fill public seats in the gallery.

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Michiganders evenly divided over right-to-work law

"A Michigan State University poll finds state residents about evenly divided over whether the new right-to-work law will help or hurt the economy. 43 percent of those polled say the law will help Michigan's economy, while 41 percent say it will hurt," the Associated Press reports.

Medical marijuana law changes begin today

More changes to Michigan's medical marijuana law goes into effect today. As the Associated Press reports,

"The measures define the type of doctor-patient relationship that is needed before medical marijuana use can be certified. For example, a doctor must complete a face-to-face evaluation of the patient. . . Among the many other changes is that state-issued cards given to people who have a doctor's endorsement for medical-marijuana use will be good for two years instead of one."

University of Michigan makes Final Four

The University of Michigan will move on to the Final Four in NCAA basketball. Michigan beat the University of Florida 79-59. The U of M will play Syracuse University Saturday in the national semi-final.

This was the week in  which Detroit got an emergency manager and the state got a right-to-work law.  That is to say, the law took effect this week. I’d say that makes for a pretty  newsworthy few days. Some things this week were entirely  predictable.  Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton showed up to protest the  Emergency Manager. Crowds of demonstrators appeared at Detroit’s city hall  crowds which swelled when TV cameras showed up.

The first major lawsuit  was filed against the emergency manager law, and the Detroit Tigers sent an  exciting new spring phenom, closer Bruce Rondon, down to the minor  leagues. That story is worth mentioning, by the way, because a  newspaper computer analysis shows that more people read it today than read any  of the stories about the state or city‘s drama.

DETROIT (AP) - The United Auto Workers union says its membership has edged up in the past year after decades of contraction with the shrinking of U.S. auto industry employment.

The Detroit-based union says it reported its 2012 membership figure to the U.S. government Thursday.

The UAW says it had 382,513 members last year, up from 380,716 in 2011. That's an increase of 1,797, or 0.5 percent.

http://econ.msu.edu

Today, Michigan becomes the nation's 24th right-to-work state. It's the second in the Midwest, after Indiana.

The law was passed with much controversy and thousands of demonstrators packing in and around the state Capitol last December.

A new poll out today shows that Michiganders are deeply divided over the new law.

Michigan State University’s  “State of the State Survey” asked more than a thousand people whether they thought right-to-work would be good for Michigan’s economy.

42 percent said it would be good and 41 percent said it would be bad, while 16 percent said right-to-work would have no effect on Michigan’s economy.

Charley Ballard,  economist at MSU, directs the survey and he filled us in on what the percentages look like and what people really think about right-to-work.

Listen to the full interview above.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Governor Snyder says Detroit and Michigan can’t afford to “look in the rear view mirror” when it comes to tackling problems.

The Governor spoke in Detroit Thursday, just just as two controversial laws he signed take effect.

Speaking at the Detroit Athletic Club’s “Pancakes and Politics” breakfast, Snyder addressed a crowd that included much of Detroit’s business and political elite—including the city’s new emergency manager, Kevyn Orr.

The new state law that gives Orr sweeping powers kicks in today. So does Michigan's right to work law.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A new poll shows Michiganders are deeply divided over the state’s new right-to-work law. The law takes effect today.

Under Michigan’s right-to-work law, workers can't be forced to join a union.

Michigan State University’s “State of the State Survey” asked more than a thousand people whether they thought Right to Work would be good for Michigan’s economy.

42.7 percent said it would be good.  41 percent said it would be bad.  16 percent said the right-to-work law would have no effect on Michigan’s economy.

Economist Charles Ballard is the survey’s director. He says right to work supporters tend to be overwhelmingly white, male, non-union conservatives, while opponents tend to be overwhelmingly minority, female, pro-union liberals.

“It doesn’t surprise me that the public is split. I think the public really is split and these survey results are a fairly accurate reflection of that,” says Ballard.

As an economist, Ballard thinks right-to-work will have little effect on Michigan’s economy.

“And on that basis, I’m thinking this issue probably will not go away,” says Ballard.

Michigan is the 24th state to adopt a right-to-work law.

Did you know there is actually still a Communist Party, USA? They even have a website, so that if, in the middle of the night, you are suddenly seized with a desire to join the party of Lenin and Stalin, why, you can get on line and whip out your credit card.

For $60 a year, you can be a Communist. Not only that, my guess is that if you do sign up, you won’t even lose your job or be visited by the FBI. That’s because the Communist Party today is no threat to anybody, and is, in fact, totally irrelevant.

That isn’t true of the Republican Party. Not yet, anyway. But increasingly, the GOP is beginning to behave like a wacky fringe party. They are offering positions way outside the mainstream. More and more, what one hears from Republican spokesmen is hatred and intolerance, and we got a good example yesterday.

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Michigan's right to work law goes into effect

Michigan's right-to-work law, which says employees cannot be required to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment, goes into effect today.

According to MPRN's Rick Pluta, there is still plenty of conflict over the new law.

"Some Republicans are threatening budget sanctions for public employers that have signed extended labor bargains that would delay the effects of the law. Labor groups plan to mark the day with protests and vigils, including one at the state Capitol. Governor Rick Snyder says he’s not concerned."

Opponents challenge EM law in federal court

Opponents to Michigan's new emergency manager law say it is unconstitutional and are challenging it in federal court.

“A lawsuit Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Detroit seeks an injunction to stop the law. It claims that the new law is similar to one that voters rejected in November, and violates the collective bargaining rights of workers," the Associated Press reports.

Governor Snyder approves harbor dredging after record low water levels

"Governor Rick Snyder says he expects almost 60 Michigan harbors to be dredged in time for the summer boating season. He approved more than $20 million for the projects yesterday," reports Michigan Radio's Jake Neher.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - Michigan workers can choose not to financially support unions that bargain on their behalf under a right-to-work law now in effect.

The measure that took effect at midnight will apply to labor contracts that are extended or renewed after Wednesday. Many unionized employees won't be affected for months or years.

Union organizers are asking people to wear red Thursday to protest Michigan becoming the 24th right-to-work state - a once-unthinkable change in a place where organized labor has played a central role.

Supporters plan to celebrate the law's passage.

Republican Gov. Rick Snyder is expected to see protesters at unrelated events in Detroit. He said Wednesday the continued political fighting, lawsuits and protests over right to work are "part of democracy" and he appreciates that "change is difficult for people."

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

This “week in review” Rina Miller and Jack Lessenberry discuss a state house subcommittee’s rejection to expand Medicaid, how Michigan will be run under a federal health exchange, how universities are going under scrutiny for negotiating new, long term contracts before Michigan’s right to work law goes into effect, and how a city pension attorney in Detroit and a former trustee were indicted for bribery.

ArborWiki.org

Add Washtenaw County to the list of public schools, universities, and governments approving new union contracts ahead of the March 28 right-to-work deadline.

AnnArbor.com's Amy Biolchini has more on the contracts approved last night:

In an unprecedented chain of events, the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners approved 10-year-long contracts with five of its unions Wednesday night one week before Michigan's new right-to-work law takes effect.

In exchange for the extended time frame, the unions agreed to changes in employee contributions to retirement and health care benefits for workers hired in 2014.

Biolchini reports the new contracts include wage increases and reductions in 'legacy costs' for the county. 

The 10-year contracts keep in place the requirement that employees pay union dues or fees as a condition of their employment with the county.

Such terms would be illegal after Michigan's right-to-work law goes into effect next week.

The Legislature is thinking of punishing some state universities that negotiate contracts they see as circumventing the new law.

Today I am going to talk about something in which I could be accused of having a conflict of interest. Normally, we try not to do that, and if it were only something affecting me, I wouldn’t. But the people really being threatened here are thousands of young people in Michigan, and the state‘s future.

I am talking about a vote yesterday in a state house of representatives subcommittee designed to punish schools and universities who agree to contracts with their faculty and staff that lawmakers don’t like for ideological reasons. This has to do with the anti-union, right to work legislation that was rammed through a lame-duck session of the legislature last December. This bill doesn’t take effect until eight days from how, so technically Michigan is not a right to work state yet.

Shawn Wilson / wikimedia

This week in Michigan politics, Christina Shockley and Jack Lessenberry discuss what's ahead for Kevyn Orr, the soon to be emergency manager for Detroit. They also talk about how some universities might face cuts after renegotiating labor contracts before the right to work law goes into effect later this month, and how the Blue Cross Blue Shield overhaul will affect the majority of Michiganders in the state.

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Universities might take cut after skirting around new right to work law

"Some Michigan universities could lose 15-percent of their state funding over new union contracts. A state budget panel Tuesday voted to sanction schools that approve long-term contracts before the state’s new right-to-work law takes effect. That’s unless the contracts include cost savings of at least 10 percent," Jake Neher reports.

Health care exchange deadline Friday

The state has until Friday to come up with a plan on how to shop for health insurance online as part of the Affordable Care Act. As the Detroit Free Press reports,

"If the [health exchange bill] doesn't pass this week, it will end up solely in the federal government's hands. Gov. Rick Snyder has urged the Legislature to pass the health exchange bill as a way for the state to have input on how the exchange will run and which insurance companies appear on the exchange."

Govenor Snyder hopes Lansing will not need an EM

Governor Rick Snyder says he wants to prevent the city of Lansing from getting an emergency manager. Lansing faces a projected $9 million budget shortfall next year. According to MLive, the governor talked about the future financial situation of the city at the Lansing Regional Camber of Commerce's legislative dinner last night,

“If the city of Lansing wants to be proactive and talk about a consent agreement, I want to be a good partner.”

A consent agreement is the intermediate step between emergency management of a troubled municipality’s finances and complete local control.

On a 4-3 party-line vote, a Michigan House Appropriations subcommittee voted to punish universities the Republicans believe are trying to avoid the state's new right-to-work law.

That law goes into effect on March 28th.

Wayne State University and the University of Michigan have struck contracts with their unions ahead of that deadline.

Public universities that signed new contracts or contract extensions that did not achieve at least a 10 percent savings would face a 15 percent cut in state funding under a budget bill approved this morning.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The Lansing School District has reached a tentative contract agreement with its teachers union.

No details have been released. So it’s unclear whether the deal includes a provision to get around Michigan’s new Right to Work law. 

Lansing teachers’ tentative agreement comes at a time when other unions are racing to put contract extensions into place before Michigan’s new Right to Work law takes effect.

A handful of school districts and Wayne State University have signed extended contracts that would allow the unions to continue to enforce mandatory dues collection. 

State capitol
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

This week in Michigan politics, Jack Lessenberry and Christina Shockley discuss the trial of former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, the debate between the Detroit City Council and Governor Snyder over an impending emergency manager appointment in Detroit, and how unions are trying to get new contracts in place before the new right to work law takes affect later this month.

To hear their discussion, click on the audio above.

dannybirchall / flickr

Unions are rushing to sign contracts before Michigan's right to work law takes effect this month.

But one county is worried Republicans might retaliate.

In Saginaw County, the biggest public union wants to get a 10-year contract signed ASAP.

If that happens before March 28th, it can still require workers to pay for union dues – which will be illegal under the new law.

But county officials say they’re afraid Republicans will yank state dollars from the county as retribution.

County commissioner Michael Hanley says that’s a risk they just can’t take

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