labor unions

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Now that Republicans have strengthened their control of the Michigan Legislature, one analyst expects a fight to repeal the state’s prevailing wage law.

Republicans picked up four seats in the state House on Tuesday, expanding their majority to 63 of the 110 seats. Republicans also added a state Senate seat.The GOP will hold a 27-to-11 margin in the Senate when the next session begins in 2015.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) - The United Auto Workers union is forming a local aimed at representing the Mercedes plant in Alabama in a move mirroring its efforts at the Volkswagen plant in Tennessee.

UAW President Dennis Williams was joined by top labor officials at Mercedes parent Daimler AG and the German union IG Metall on Friday to announce the new effort to organize the plant, which is the company's only factory worldwide without labor representation.

Something happened in the auto industry recently that was mostly overlooked by the mainstream media – but which may have huge implications for the industry and the United Auto Workers union.  

Seven years ago, the UAW made a concession that I am convinced would have had Walter Reuther spinning in his grave.

They agreed to accept a two-tier wage system under which most new hires would be paid slightly less than half what long-time auto workers made.

Think about that.

This means most of them are earning less than $30,000 a year.  Can they buy a house with that salary?  Even buy one of the new cars and trucks they build?

You know the answer. Yet the union agreed, because it felt it had no choice.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Vice President Joe Biden repeatedly raised the issue of income inequality during a speech before the start of today’s Labor Day parade in Detroit.

Thousands of union workers packed the grounds of Old Tiger Stadium at Michigan and Trumbull to hear the Vice President speak. Biden was flanked on stage by  Teamsters President James P. Hoffa and United Auto Workers president Dennis Williams.  

Biden lashed out at corporations and the wealthy who make millions of dollars while union workers continue to struggle.

Ray Holman of UAW Local 6000 says the ruling is a victory for state employees.
UAW

In the 1970s, at the height of its power, the United Auto Workers had more than 1.5 million members. Today it has fewer than 400,000. Some of the reasons behind that include an aging union workforce.

But it’s not just the UAW. As many in the labor movement turn to retirement, unions are looking to rebuild and reinvent with younger members.

Roland Zullo is with the Institute for Research on Labor, Employment and the Economy at the University of Michigan.

Zullo said that job insecurity is the main reason why young people are not ready to join unions.

Daniel Parks / Flickr

An association of non-union construction companies has asked the state Supreme Court to strike down local prevailing wage laws. The Associated Builders and Contractors says a state law preempts the ordinances.

Nearly two dozen Michigan communities have their own prevailing wage ordinances. They’re supposed to ensure that workers on city-financed projects are paid something close to union wages.

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.

United Auto Workers membership grows slightly

Mar 29, 2014
UAW/Facebook

NEW YORK (AP) - A filing with the U.S. Department of Labor shows the United Auto Workers' membership grew by nearly 9,000 people last year. 

UAW's membership in 2013 was 391,415, compared to 382,513 in 2012. The union has been steadily adding members since 2009, when General Motors and Chrysler filed for bankruptcy.

makzhou / Flickr

Michigan State University could risk losing $500,000 if it does not stop offering courses that allegedly promote unionization.

A state Senate panel approved a measure Thursday banning courses at public universities that promote or discourage organizing efforts. It’s a reaction to MSU’s recent decision to take over some programs from the National Labor College.

Republicans say those courses violate the proposed rule.

“I believe in academic freedom, and you’re going to have difficult subjects that you’re going to cover at any university,” said state Rep. Al Pscholka, R-Stevensville, who chairs the panel that directs higher education funding in the House. 

“But this is a case where I think we’re almost encouraging labor disputes, and I don’t think that’s appropriate.”

The only Democrat that sits on the Senate panel that approved the penalty says it’s unusual for lawmakers to scrutinize university programs this intensely.

“Why just this program?” asked state Sen. Morris Hood III, D-Detroit. “And I would guess to believe that this is a hot topic item and it ruffles a lot of feathers.”

An MSU official says the university’s curriculum is balanced. He says it also offers classes that educate businesses on labor issues.

Pscholka says lawmakers will probably decide whether to move forward with the $500,000 penalty when they return from a three-week break in April.

Pobrecito33 / Flickr

It's Thursday – time for our weekly check-in with Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes. 

 He's picking through the rubble of the UAW's bid to unionize workers at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn. We know that VW workers said "no thanks" to the UAW by a vote of 712-626, but what are the deeper implications of that "no" vote? Daniel Howes joined us today. Listen to the full interview above.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Flint school district employees are facing a deep cut in pay and benefits.

Interim school superintendent Larry Watkins announced today that the district and its unions have reached a deal that calls for a 19% cut in compensation.

Specific details about cuts to wages and benefits are still being negotiated between the district and its unions. The cuts will take effect in July. 

Watkins says the cuts are a key component of the district’s deficit reduction plan that’s being submitted to the state next week.

Blast at US Steel plant near Detroit kills worker

Dec 15, 2013
United States Steel Corp. website

ECORSE, Mich. (AP) -United States Steel Corp. says an explosion at a plant near Detroit has killed one worker, and operations have halted while an investigation begins. 

Company spokeswoman Courtney Boone said Sunday that the accident happened overnight at U.S. Steel Great Lakes Works in Ecorse. The plant is about 10 miles south-southwest of downtown Detroit.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Fast-food workers in Flint, Detroit, Pontiac, Lansing and other Michigan cities hit the picket lines today.

They are demanding a big increase in the minimum wage.

In Lansing, a small group of protesters chanted and waved signs outside a Pizza Hut.  

Tina Ervin has worked at the pizza joint for the past year. She says she’s having a hard time supporting herself and her three children on $7.40 an hour. Ervin is hopeful the national campaign to increase the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour will succeed.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Protesters called for higher wages and better working conditions for Walmart employees at stores around the country Friday, including one store in suburban Detroit.

Store managers and security met the protesters as they marched to the entrance to the Sterling Heights Walmart.

They were blocked from going in—but did hand over petitions protesting Walmart’s treatment of its workers. Police also arrived, but the protesters left peacefully.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

STERLING HEIGHTS, Mich. (AP) - Several labor leaders are expected to rally at a suburban Detroit Wal-Mart store on the day traditionally viewed as the official start to the holiday buying season.

MLive.com reports the Friday event in Sterling Heights is one of hundreds of planned demonstrations and walkouts around the country. The Michigan Black Friday protest is expected to draw leaders from the AFL-CIO and Service Employees International Union.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Some Lansing city workers have a new three year contract.

The Lansing city council gave the final OK to the contract with the city’s UAW employees last night.  

Under the contract, the city’s UAW employees will pay more toward their retirement benefits.   Also, the families of new city employees will not be eligible for health benefits after the employee retires.   The contract also includes a slight pay increase.   

Steve Carmody/MIchigan Radio

Michigan’s largest teachers’ union is being accused of trying to intimidate teachers who wanted to leave the union.

Earlier this month, the Michigan Education Association announced 99% of its members decided to stay in the union, despite Michigan’s new Right-To-Work law.

Detroit cancels bus runs Monday, cites `sick out'

Oct 20, 2013
Sarah Hulett

Operators of Detroit's public buses say riders may have to find another way to get around Monday because of what officials say is a threatened "sick-out" protest by unionized drivers.

The union says it isn't behind the job action and can't do anything if drivers call in sick.

A recording on the Detroit Department of Transportation's phone line Sunday evening says that the union has "scheduled a sick out Monday" and "bus service will not be in operation."

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Union officials say a set of bills in Lansing are an attack on employees’ ability to strike and protest.

The state House Oversight Committee approved the legislation Tuesday. It now goes to the full state House.

House Bill 4643 would increase penalties for protesters who violate current picketing laws. It would also allow business owners to get a court order banning a demonstration without first having to prove picketers were doing something wrong.

Rep. Jim Townsend (D-Royal Oak) is the top Democrat on the panel. He called that language unconstitutional.

wikimedia commons

Detroit officials and some of the city’s creditors will sit down for their first official mediation session Tuesday.

The mediation was ordered by Judge Steven Rhodes, who’s in charge of Detroit’s Chapter 9 bankruptcy case. Rhodes has appointed chief federal district court judge Gerald Rosen as mediator.

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

In what could be a victory for the Detroit-based United Auto Workers, a union official in Tennessee says a majority of workers at Volkswagen's assembly plant in the state have signed cards favoring the UAW’s representation in creating a German-style works council at the plant.

The official told the Associated Press that the cards are as legally binding as an election by the workers.

More from the AP:

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.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The Michigan Supreme Court has unanimously decided not to step in early to decide the legality of the state's right-to-work law.

The court on Friday said it wasn't persuaded that ruling now would be an "appropriate exercise" of its discretion.

Republican Gov. Rick Snyder in January asked for an advisory opinion on the law that lets workers stop paying union dues or fees.

Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr has reminded two of the city’s biggest unions that their contracts are expiring soon.

In letters sent this week, Orr emphasized that he’s not required to conduct collective bargaining sessions.

Under the state’s emergency manager law, he could impose new terms on the unions.

Mark Young is President of the Detroit Police Lieutenants and Sergeants Association, which along with AFSCME Council 25 is one of the affected unions.

He says the officers should get a new collective bargaining agreement.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The United States Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments in a dispute between President Obama and congressional Republicans which is directly affecting the lives of Michigan workers.

At issue is the president’s authority to make "recess" appointments.

Recess appointments are made when the president fills a governmental position while the Congress is in recess.

In this case, President Obama filled three vacancies on the National Labor Relations Board without getting his appointees confirmed by Congress.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A federal court challenge is blocking a group of west Michigan bakers from forming a union.

A federal court is preventing the National Labor Relations Board from certifying local union elections, because three of the board’s five members were appointed by President Obama without congressional approval.

In 2012, Panera Bread bakers voted to form a union at 6 locations along I-94 in west Michigan. The NLRB certified the vote.  But because of the legal challenge to the president’s appointees, the issue remains in limbo. 

hstreetagent

A major union is disputing claims by Michigan’s home builders that there are not enough skilled workers to fill all the jobs in the state’s resurgent construction industry.

New home prices are up in Michigan this year. Building permits are also up.

But the Home Builders Association of Michigan released a survey last month claiming a deep gap between the number of skilled trades workers and the jobs available.

That’s not true, according to Mike Jackson.   He’s the Secretary-Treasurer of the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights.

Miguel Vaca / Flickr

Many Detroit fast food workers are on strike today. Workers from restaurants across the city walked off the job at 6 a.m. this morning.

Organizers of the strike expect workers from 60 restaurants to participate. These include McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Subway, Little Caesar’s, Burger King, and Popeye’s.

According to the Associated Press and Detroit pastor, Charles Williams II, workers want $15 an hour, better working conditions, and the right to unionize. The strike’s organizers claim that most fast food workers currently make $7.40 an hour, which is minimum wage in Michigan.

The Detroit News has interviewed workers involved in the strike. Claudette Wilson, Detroit resident and an employee at a Burger King on Eight Mile, said:

"I make $7.40 an hour, the same as when I started working in the fast food industry three years ago. We're the fastest-growing job market in the country with the lowest pay."

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.

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.

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