labor laws

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

April 28 was International Workers Memorial Day, the day that honors those killed or injured on the job in the past year.

Labor advocates in Detroit and cities worldwide held vigils to remember those workers Monday.

The annual event also marks the day that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was founded in 1970.

That federal agency enforces workplace safety rules in the U.S., and tracks employment-related injuries and fatalities.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) - The University of Michigan says it will require companies that make licensed products at factories in Bangladesh to meet worker safety standards.

President Mary Sue Coleman announced this week that licensees must either sign and abide by the worker safety initiative or demonstrate that they have an equivalent safety plan.

The Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh is a five-year agreement between apparel manufacturers and trade unions. It was developed in response to a 2013 factory collapse that killed more than 1,000 people in Bangladesh.

The Michigan Daily reports Coleman's announcement came a day after a protest in the Fleming Administration Building.

According to a news release from Michigan, the Ann Arbor school becomes the 10th university to add the accord to its licensing requirements.

Protestors outside the Indiana Capitol building when the "right-to-work" legislation passed earlier this year.
screen grab from video / The Statehouse File

A judge in Indiana has ruled that that state’s right-to-work law violates a provision in the Indiana constitution -- a provision that bars the delivery of services “without just compensation.”

 The judge found that the law wrongly requires unions to represent workers who do not pay dues. Indiana became the 23rd state – and the first in the Midwest – to ban the collection of mandatory fees for representation from unions. Rick Pluta, Lansing Bureau Chief for the Michigan Public Radio network, joined us today. He's been covering Michigan’s right-to-work law – which, of course, was passed in December. Listen to the audio above.

Ifmuth / Flickr

At the state Capitol, Democrats are preparing their last-ditch effort to slow or stop legislation that would make Michigan the 24th so-called “right-to-work” state.

Republicans in the state House are expected to send the legislation to Governor Rick Snyder Tuesday.

Thousands of demonstrators are expected to turn out at the Capitol.

Rick Pluta/MPRN

One thing I know about politically polarizing issues: arguing for middle-of-the-road positions alienates a lot of folks.

But here goes anyway.

I don’t love unions.

And I feel I can say that with some authority, given that as an employee of several media companies, I’ve been a member of three of them.

In every case, I felt unions were so concerned about protecting territory, that they were, at times, anti-progressive, and too often in the business of preserving their power.

I couldn’t touch equipment.

I was prevented from developing technical skills I would have been wise to learn.

Later in my career, when I worked at non-union shops, I was glad that, if I wanted to try something new, I could.

Now, that may seem like a funny way for me to argue that right-to-work laws are a bad idea, but that’s where I’m going with this.

DETROIT (AP) - The U.S. Labor Department says a Detroit-based bakery chain has agreed to pay $63,000 in back wages to 21 employees whom it wrongly classified as independent contractors.

The agency said Wednesday that its investigation found that Sheila's Bakery LLC committed violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act at its three locations.

The agency says the misclassification of the workers deprived them of federally mandated overtime pay at time-and-a-half when they worked more than 40 hours in a week. Instead, they got a flat hourly rate or a flat weekly salary of $340 to $400.

The government says it loses substantial amounts of income, Social Security and Medicare tax payments because of the misclassification of employees as contractors.

Craig Camp / flickr

Sarah Alvarez-Michigan Radio Newsroom

The Michigan Farm Bureau is starting a six month series to educate farmers about laws that apply to migrant workers and youth labor. Michigan’s agriculture industry is dependent on migrant labor. The industry is still dealing with the effect of a harsh report on worker conditions by the Michigan Civil Rights Commission.

Hannah Stevens is with Michigan State University Extension, one of the sponsors of the series.

In agriculture it’s complicated because there immigration issues there’s housing issue, you know, so many regulatory agencies that look closely at management of labor.  I think particularly it’s a sensitive topic.

Stevens says that pressure to comply with labor laws is also coming from retailers.

The retail stores, Meijer’s and Walmart’s and all these, are beginning to demand that there’s certain responsibility that growers have in terms of managing their workforce. They may reject Michigan produce if they don’t feel that’s being handled correctly. That may put growers in a very awkward position.

The farm bureau expects only about 25% of growers in the state will attend their seminars. The seminars will run from February to July.