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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.

Right-to-work in Michigan: Is there a middle ground?

Dec 10, 2012
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.

Chris Zollars

The University of Michigan’s got about 15 hundred unhappy lecturers to deal with.

Non-tenured faculty from the University of Michigan's three campuses want a bump in pay, to put them on par with their tenured colleagues.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Gov. Rick Snyder's 'not on my agenda' talk seemed to keep right-to-work legislation at bay, continually saying the issue was too divisive.

He had a change of heart yesterday.

Now, Michigan is on the fast-track to becoming the 24th state to adopt a right-to-work law.

Right-to-work laws ban requirements to pay dues or fees to a union as a condition of employment. Without compulsory payments in a closed union shop, unions stand to lose a lot of muscle.

The Detroit Free Press reports that the UAW's Bob King and other labor leaders tried to stop the legislation prior to yesterday's vote:

UAW President Bob King spent a lot of time in Lansing in recent days trying to prevent Gov. Rick Snyder and the Republican leadership from introducing right-to-work legislation but came up short.

“Labor collectively felt like we put some really important proposals on the table about how we could work together … and about how can we de-escalate partisanship,” King told the Free Press today. “We are really disappointed that the governor and the Republican leadership chose the path that they did.”

In a separate piece, the Free Press reports that Snyder said the labor leaders didn't do enough, but he didn't provide specifics.

screenshot / LiveStream

We're updating this post on the legislature's effort to pass a 'right-to-work' law in Michigan.

A right-to-work law would outlaw requirements that workers pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment. Unions say these laws weaken their ability to bargain collectively with employers. Supporters of the law say it gives workers a choice.

Update 7:50 p.m.

Rick Pluta / MPRN

Update 12:16 p.m.

During a press conference this morning, Michigan Gov. Snyder dramatically changed course on 'right-to-work' legislation in Michigan.

He has continually said that the legislation was 'not on his agenda' this year because it was too divisive.

But today, he said right-to-work is on his agenda and he will sign a bill if it lands on his desk.

"It is a divisive issue. It's on the table, whether I want it to be there or not," Snyder said during the this morning's press conference.

The 'right-to-work' bills are expected to be introduced in the Legislature today. MIRS reports the bills will cover public sector workers and private sector workers.

Police and fire workers will be excluded.

The bills are expected to move quickly.

They are also expected to have appropriations attached to them, making voter repeal impossible.

10:42 a.m.

The Michigan Information Research Service reports the Michigan House and Senate plan to use 'vehicle bills' to move their 'right-to-work' legislation faster.

Vehicle bills are bills that have already been introduced into a legislative body into which language can be added. It allows legislators to move the legislation through the chambers faster than introducing a new bill.

MIRS reports their sources tell them the 'right-to-work' legislation Republican leaders plan to introduce today will cover both private and public workers.

We'll find out soon enough.

10:12 a.m.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and Republican leaders in the state Legislature are expected to unveil their plans for so-called 'right-to-work' legislation at an 11 a.m. news conference this morning.

You can watch the 'media roundtable' live at 11:00 a.m. online.

From the Detroit Free Press:

Snyder is to be joined at the news conference, described as a “media roundtable,” by Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville and House Speaker Jase Bolger.

Details were not disclosed, but right-to-work legislation is expected to begin moving in the Legislature today. Rather than introducing a new bill, which under the rules of the Legislature would take longer to pass, lawmakers are expected to introduce a substitute for a House bill that is already in the legislative pipeline.

Right-to-work laws are often called "right-to-work-for less" laws by those who oppose the measures.

The laws ban contracts that compel employees to join a union, or that compel them to pay fees to that union. Without these payments, unions lose their power.

Union supporters say workers not paying into the pool still reap the benefits of collectively bargained contracts, such as better pay, benefits, or working conditions.

The news conference has ended.

Here's the news conference with Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and Republican legislative leaders. They're unveiling their plans for 'right-to-work' legislation:

Stateside: Labor unions' future reliant on cooperation

Nov 13, 2012
Pobrecito33 / Flickr

Labor unions have suffered something of an image crisis over the past decade.

People blame their presence for convoluting many political and economic conversations.

But, according to Harley Shaiken, the unions’ place in society is far from extinct.

Shaiken is a professor of education and geography at University of California, Berkeley.

He addressed the problems currently facing labor unions as well as their past triumphs.

“Overall the public opinion polls are favorable when people are asked if they would join a union,” said Shaiken.

According to Shaiken, the economic gloom of states’ economies cannot entirely be blamed on labor unions.

The election is now only four days away, and I’ve been thinking about what will happen afterward.

Earlier this week, I received a nasty phone call from a woman named Bonnie.

She believes President Obama is evil, and a traitor.

She thinks the media are covering up the truth behind the killing of the American ambassador to Libya.

She was also upset that we are covering up the “fact,” as she put it, that President Obama’s family were all Communists.

I told her, in not very polite terms, that was idiotic.

She began screaming and I hung up.

Stan Oleson / Fotopedia

Voters in Michigan could make some big changes to the Michigan Constitution on November 6th. They’ll decide on five proposed amendments to Michigan’s guiding legal document.

Proposal 2 would enshrine collective bargaining rights in the state Constitution.

Those supporting Proposal 2 say they’re just trying to protect workers’ rights. Labor unions around the Midwest have been feeling squeezed. The legislature in Wisconsin stripped public sector workers of their collective bargaining rights.

MEA

Michigan's Proposal 2 ballot campaign is being watched across the country. The proposal seeks to enshrine collective bargaining rights for public and private employees into the Michigan Constitution.

Steven Greenhouse wrote about the implications of Michigan's Proposal 2 in a recent New York Times piece.

Stateside: Government and unions learn how to better communicate

Oct 25, 2012
UAW sign.
UAW

Believe it or not, many of Michigan’s local leaders are satisfied with union negotiations.

According to Tom Ivacko, administrator and program manager of Ford School’s Center for Local, State and Urban Policy, the relationship between jurisdiction and its employees is quite positive.

Ivacko oversees the Michigan Public Policy Survey program. He spoke today with Cyndy about these relationships.

ROSEVILLE, Mich. (AP) - Authorities say someone's trying to scam residents of a Detroit suburb into believing that missing Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa could be buried on their property.

Roseville police are warning city residents about a letter that purports to be from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. The letter says a recent dig at a Roseville home for Hoffa was a ruse to keep the media away from the real site.

The letter's author implies the true Hoffa dig site is at the recipient's home.

Several residents received a copy of the fake letter as a lure to get them outside while thieves go inside their homes.

Roseville police investigated a claim last month that Hoffa was buried in a backyard, but testing on soil samples showed no traces of human decomposition.

The 37-year-old search for Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa moves to a driveway in Roseville, Mich., on Friday.

"Police will be taking soil core samples," the Detroit Free Press reports, after receiving what they say is a "credible" tip that around the time of Hoffa's 1975 disappearance someone was buried under what's now a driveway in a Roseville residential neighborhood.

Patrick Wright of the Mackinac Center says home health care workers are being forced to pay union dues.
Mackinac Center

Michigan could void its contract with thousands of home health care workers if a state board agrees with a legal action filed this week by the Mackinac Center.

The free market think tank is asking the Michigan Employment Relations Commission to rule that home health care workers aren’t public employees, but rather private contractors who can’t unionize.

The workers are organized under the Service Employees International Union.

The Mackinac Center’s Pat Wright says they’re forced to pay dues that should be going to patient care.

The Detroit News has an update on the "Big Three" and their negotiations with the Canadian Auto Workers union. The deadline for a deal is midnight tonight.

User: dmealiffe / flickr.com

The Canadian Auto Workers union said today its members have voted to strike against Chrysler, Ford, and GM, if necessary.

The Detroit News reports the CAW is negotiating new contracts with the automakers. Current contracts are set to expire on September 17:

The CAW is expected to meet with the automakers Monday and Tuesday in downtown Toronto.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The Michigan Court of Appeals hears arguments tomorrow over whether a ballot initiative to enshrine collective bargaining rights in the state constitution should be on the November ballot.

Michigan Hall of Justice
User Xnatedawgx / Wikimedia Commons

More ballot measure news today as Michigan voters face a November election that will likely include  about a half a dozen ballot measures.

The Michigan Court of Appeals will hear arguments next week from supporters and opponents of a ballot measure that seeks to add collective bargaining rights for workers into the state constitution.

A group called Protect Our Jobs collected nearly 700,000 signatures to get the measure on the ballot. The group Citizens Protecting Michigan's Constitution challenged the petition, saying the ballot proposal was unconstitutionally broad.

In an order released today, the court says oral arguments in the case will be heard Wednesday in Lansing.

An appeal to the court was made after the Board of State Canvassers deadlocked 2-2 this week on the Protect Our Jobs ballot proposal.

Eastern Michigan University
krossbow / Flickr - http://bit.ly/1rFrzRK

Eastern Michigan University officials announced today they've reached a tentative agreement with the union representing EMU faculty members.

The current contract with the union was set to expire at midnight on August 31. EMU students start classes on Wednesday, September 5.

EMU officials say the contract "provides for salary increases of 2 percent per year for each year of the contract, as well as changes to health care plans."

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

More than 60 union workers at Grand Rapids Gravel Company are beginning their third week on strike over a proposed wage cut. Now the private company has security to protect replacement workers and equipment.

About a dozen union workers glare at a replacement worker hauling a load of gravel out of the pits they usually work in. One security guard video tapes us talking as the hauler leaves the pits.

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing has imposed new contract terms on nearly all city workers.

The move comes a day after the Detroit City Council rejected those terms. But the city’s consent agreement with the state lets city officials impose them anyway.

Bing said it was a tough decision, but a necessary one.

“It’s not easy," he told reporters Wednesday morning. "I know it’s going to be difficult for a lot of people. But I’ve got to worry about 700,000 people in the city of Detroit, not just the workers.”

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing
Mayor Dave Bing / Facebook.com

A board created to help Detroit Mayor Dave Bing repair the city's broken finances has approved his plan to make more than $100 million in cuts to the unionized workforce.

The Detroit News and Detroit Free Press report the financial advisory board took its first major steps toward restructuring the city's finances yesterday. The plan calls for putting in place savings that include a 10 percent wage cut and significant changes to health care and work rules.

Most are similar to tentative agreements reached earlier this year with unions.

The City Council is expected to consider the plan next week, but the financial board can implement the actions without council's approval.

The nine-member board was formed under a consent agreement between the city and state.

Union supporters of veteran Congressman John Conyers are holding a re-election rally Monday for the Detroit Democrat. The 82-year-old is seeking a 24th term in the House and faces several challengers in the Aug. 7 party primary.

The group Working Families for Southeast Michigan says its rally is set for 5-8 p.m. at the Michigan Conference-Teamsters hall in Detroit.

Others in the Democratic race in the 13th District include state Sens. Glenn Anderson of Westland and Bert Johnson of Highland Park, and state Rep. Shanelle Jackson of Detroit.

Conyers is the second-most senior member of the House, dean of the Congressional Black Caucus and the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee.

President Barack Obama endorsed Conyers in February.

wikimedia commons

DETROIT (AP) - Some Detroit municipal union leaders say striking is one of several options being discussed during ramped-up strategy sessions before new contract talks with the city begin.

American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees Council 25 spokesman Ed McNeil says no strike vote has been taken "at this point."

McNeil said "people are looking at the system itself and are pretty disgusted with the city."

Union strategy sessions have become more agitated since Mayor Dave Bing and Gov. Rick Snyder approved a consent agreement that avoided appointment of an emergency manager in Detroit but now calls for steeper benefit cuts and more work rules concessions.

Detroit has an accumulated budget deficit of $265 million. Bing wants to cut more than 2,500 jobs and shave $250 million in annual expenses.

Yesterday, Cyndy Canty spoke with Flint Mayor Dayne Walling and other experts about Michigan's Emergency Manager Law.
michiganradio.org

Flint's emergency manager, Michael Brown, has been working out new contract deals with the city's unions. Public safety unions have been working under expired contracts in Flint for more than two years.

Kristin Longley of the Flint Journal reports Brown has reached agreements with three of the city's six employee bargaining units (the police sergeants union, the police captains and lieutenants union, and the firefighters union).

U of M GEO

The issue of whether or not certain University of Michigan graduate students can unionize is back in the news.

Two graduate students at the University of Michigan have filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in an effort to overturn a new state law that prohibits U of M graduate student research assistants, or GSRAs, from collective bargaining.

Public Act 45 effectively says GSRAs are primarily students, not public employees, and therefore don’t have the right to form a union.

Sam Montgomery is with the Graduate Employees Organization (GEO), a labor union at U of M. She says the law violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. constitution:

"It singles out this group of individuals and withholds them from a right that is granted to other public employees without giving a rational based in fact as to why they are not employees."

Last May, the U of M Board of Regents voted 6 to 2 to recognize the university's roughly 2,200 GSRAs as public employees with the right to vote to form a union.

The Michigan Employment Relations Commission found otherwise in a 1981 ruling. The Commission was in the middle of holding its own administrative hearing on the issue when Governor Snyder signed Public Act 45 into law.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint emergency manager Michael Brown says two police unions have tentatively approved new contracts with the city.

More from Kristin Longley at the Flint Journal:

The members of the Flint sergeants union and the lieutenants and captains union voted on the proposed contracts Thursday, he said.

Brown said it was a significant accomplishment that the parties were able to reach a consensus. The city's four public safety unions have been operating under expired contracts for more than two years.

Details have yet to be released. Brown said he expects to sign the contracts soon to make them official.

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Gov. Rick Snyder has signed legislation aimed at making sure union dues aren't collected from certain home health care workers.

The bill that the Republican governor announced signing Tuesday would exclude those who receive a government subsidy for private employment from the definition of a public employee.

Snyder said the legislation clarifies Michigan law to its original intent.

Republicans who control the Michigan Legislature have been critical of what they consider stealth, unilaterally imposed union dues collection from those who serve as care providers through a program called the Michigan Quality Community Care Council.

Unions are attempting to counteract the legislation through a ballot campaign aimed at getting features of the program enshrined in the state constitution.

They'd have to collect nearly 323,000 voter signatures to make the November ballot.

GEO

University of Michigan graduate student research assistants (GSRAs) have wanted to hold a vote asking other GSRAs whether or not a union should be formed for decades.

In the past, they've been prevented from holding a vote because the Michigan Employment Relations Commission has not allowed a vote to go forward.

Most recently they were prevented from doing so because of a new state law banning GSRAs from forming unions at public universities in Michigan.

But the timing of when that new law goes into effect has been hotly contested in the courts.

It's a long, sordid tale that involves parliamentary rules in the State House.

An Ingham County judge had ruled the law cannot go into effect immediately, so the Commission scheduled a vote on the UM GSRA unionization vote.

But the Court of Appeals stayed the Ingham County judge's ruling on Monday, restoring the immediate effect of the GSRA unionization ban.

So today, the Michigan Employment Relations Commission decided to table a vote on whether to allow the UM GSRAs to go forward with a unionization vote.

In a 2-1 vote, the Commission said any action they take on the issue would be moot because of the latest court ruling.

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