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labor unions

Earlier this week, Flint emergency manager said he worked out a deal with the city's firefighter's union and hoped to work out deals with the city's other unions by Friday.

The Flint Journal reports this morning that Brown will not meet that deadline:

Flint emergency manager Michael Brown has canceled this month's meeting with city council members until further notice.

Brown had planned to present council on Monday with a 2013 budget, but said Thursday that he won't meet today's deadline for addressing union contracts or the budget and wants more time.

Brown says there's no new firm deadline for hammering out new contracts.

user brother_o'mara / Flickr

Detroit approves consent agreement with the state

As Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek reported, the 5-4 vote in favor of a consent agreement with the state "came after an emotionally-charged debate that sometimes erupted into hostility."

The agreement, which the Governor is expected to sign sometime today, sets up a nine-member financial advisory board that would have oversight over the city's financial matters. It also establishes a chief financial officer position, and a program management position, both would report to the mayor.

Cwiek reports the city's restructuring "will be painful and sweeping" with some city departments disappearing, some services cut and others privatized. And the recently negotiated contracts with a coalition of city unions will be tossed aside. New contracts must be worked out.

To help the city avoid insolvency, the state of Michigan will complete a refinancing of some outstanding debt by selling bonds.

Michigan school unions file federal lawsuit against state

The state passed a law last year barring school districts from collecting union dues through payroll deduction.  Schools unions filed a lawsuit against that law in federal court yesterday.

Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody reported "the federal lawsuit alleges the law violates the 1st and 14th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, by discriminating against school employees’s free speech rights and treating them differently than other public employees…who can still have their union dues deducted from their paycheck."

The governor’s office issued a statement backing the law, “We believe the bill does adhere to the constitution. ”

It's Opening Day for the Tigers!

The first Major League baseball game of the season took place last night in Miami, but for the rest of the League  - today is the day.

In Detroit, the Detroit Tigers will slug it out with the Boston Red Sox at 1:05 p.m. Fans and sportswriters have high expectations for the Tigers this year with many expecting the team to take the AL Central pennant.

In today's Detroit Free Press, Tiger's owner Mike Ilitch told Mitch Albom he spent big money to field a competitive team this year:

Wait 'til next year. It's the sports fan's mantra. But for Mike Ilitch, next years are precious. At 82, he admits he gave Prince Fielder the largest contract in Tigers history at least partly due to urgency in winning a World Series title. "Time is running out," he says. "No use kidding myself."

Spring has sprung; 99% spring events are coming

Apr 2, 2012
Valerie O'Rourkefrom the 99% Spring Blog / from the 99% Spring Blog

Earlier this year, we told you about The 99% Spring, the protest movement sponsored by a variety of political and labor groups including MoveOn.org, the United Auto Workers and the Teamsters Union.

It’s part of a fresh wave of protests that are taking place across the country, in the wake of the Occupy movement.

Starting next week, 99% Spring events will be kicking off across the United States, and especially in the Midwest.

Supporters are vowing to train 100,000 people to “to tell the story of what happened to our economy, learn the history of non-violent direct action, and use that knowledge to take action on our own campaigns to win change.”

Over the weekend, the UAW sent an email to its members, encouraging them to take part.

“We are at a crucial point in America where if we continue to ignore the opportunity to rebuild this great country, then we risk losing the very essence of what has made this country great,” the email said. 

Some 918 events have been scheduled thus far. MoveOn.org, which is associated with the Democratic Party, has a locator for events, where you can put in your zip code and find those closest to you.

Here are the ones for the Detroit area, Chicago and Milwaukee, and Cleveland. To be sure, the 99% Spring movement hasn’t said what will happen once people are trained, but given the training events, it’s pretty clear it will meet its goal of training 100,000 people.

Are you planning to take part in 99% Spring? Let us know where and when.

wikimedia commons

Update 11:06 a.m.

In addition to threatening to strike, AFSCME officials say they will also file a federal lawsuit to try and compel Detroit City Council to take a vote on the tentative agreements the unions bargained for.

Unions are also in federal court seeking a restraining order. They're trying to prevent the Detroit City Council from signing off on a consent agreement.

10:49 a.m.

Time is running out for Detroit and state officials to reach an agreement to stave off an emergency manager.

This morning, Deputy Mayor Kirk Lewis confirmed he won’t ask the City Council to approve new labor contracts for city workers.

That infuriates union leaders, who gave up historic concessions in an effort to save money and avoid an emergency manager.

Al Garrett, President of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees in Detroit, said this is about breaking unions, not Detroit’s fiscal crisis.

"People don’t have to come to work if in fact their rights are being abridged," said Garrett. "It is not unusual for strikes in the city of Detroit, and I’m pretty sure that they may be met with some stiff opposition with regards to taking away rights that folks have had for years."

Gov. Snyder has said those concessions don’t go far enough. Under a proposed consent agreement, city officials would have broad powers to skip collective bargaining and impose union contracts.

Detroit skyline
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

In a deal announced today, a coalition of unions representing thousands of Detroit city workers said their members approved 10 percent pay cuts and other changes.

The Associated Press reports "the deal announced Friday affects at least 4,500 workers and still needs approval from the city council."

It does not cover the unions representing Detroit police officers or Detroit firefighters. Those unions are in separate talks.

Absent cuts or added revenue, the city is expected to run out of cash sometime in April.

The cuts are intended to hold off a state takeover of Detroit through the appointment of an emergency manager, or though a consent agreement.

The Detroit Free Press reports the question of whether these cuts are enough remains to be seen:

Under the current agreement, the city would save about $54 million a year in concessions — less than half what Mayor Dave Bing originally wanted.

Other savings include $14 million in layoffs and about $100 million in new revenue by aggressively collecting past due taxes and parking tickets, but those were plans already underway before the negotiations.

An attorney who assisted in the negotiations for the coalition of unions, Richard Mack, said "we are going to make sure the city gets back in the black within a year."

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder wants to hear recommendations on Monday from the state's financial review team about whether the state should step in with either an emergency manager or a consent agreement.

But the legality of the review team is getting tangled up in the courts. An Ingham County judge found that the state's review team violated the Open Meetings Act. The state appealed the ruling, which is now being reviewed by the appeals court.

Dmitri Beljan / Flickr

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Two proposed constitutional amendments supported by Michigan unions have cleared procedural hurdles allowing their campaigns to continue.

The forms of petitions sponsored by the groups were approved Monday by the Board of State Canvassers. Supporters would need to collect at least 322,609 valid voter signatures to put the proposed constitutional amendments before voters in November.

The newest of the proposals aims to put what is now called the Michigan Quality Community Care Council in the state constitution.

The proposal would protect some collective bargaining rights for employees, a clause opponents say may conflict with federal law.

The other proposal is backed by a broad union coalition. The Protect Our Jobs campaign would enshrine collective bargaining rights in the constitution and serve as a pre-emptive strike against possible right-to-work legislation.

Unions and progressive groups have launched a ballot drive as a push back against what they say is a wave of anti-labor measures from Republicans in Lansing.

The campaign wants to put a proposed amendment to the state constitution on the November ballot.

It would prohibit Michigan from becoming a "right-to-work" state that allows employees to opt out of paying union dues. It would also pre-empt a host of other laws that would restrict union organizing and fundraising.

Jeff Bean, a teacher’s union member from Flint, said union rights helped build the middle class.

"A strong middle class is the backbone, especially here in Michigan, but I would say nationwide – of our economy, of our process, of our culture, so I think it’s something that deserves a constitutional amendment for that reason," said Bean.

Opponents of the ballot drive said it’s motivated more by a desire of union leaders to drive voter turnout in November than to guarantee workers’ rights.

Governor Rick Snyder’s spokeswoman says a fierce debate over "right-to-work" and other labor issues won’t help Michigan rebuild its economy.

The governor has said he hopes the Legislature will put off a measure that would outlaw compulsory union membership or dues to hold a job.

The governor’s spokeswoman, Geralyn Lasher, said Gov. Snyder is equally skeptical of a ballot drive to guarantee union organizing rights in the state constitution.

"The 'right-to-work' issue, everything about that is so divisive, it’s not something Michigan needs to be focused on right now. We have so many other things that we can work on cooperatively. We’ve seen a lot of success with collective bargaining. We want to continue to move forward. We don’t really see a lot of positives from this battle on either side of the issue," said Wurfel.

Union and progressive groups launched the ballot drive today.

They have until July 9 to collect enough signatures of registered voters to qualify for the November ballot.

A campaign to keep Michigan legislators from enacting a "right-to-work" law is holding a rally tomorrow in Lansing. The "Protect Our Jobs campaign" is hoping to put a constitutional amendment proposal on the November ballot that would "protect collective bargaining rights."

If passed, a "Right to Work" law would allow workers individually to opt out of paying union dues.

Workers in union represented workplaces in Michigan today are required by law to pay dues.

They can opt out of the union, but they still have to pay "an agency fee." As Michigan Radio's Lester Graham reported, "that fee covers the cost of the union’s collective bargaining and grievance handling processes."

From the Protect Our Jobs campaign's press release:

Working men and women from across Michigan will gather at the state Capitol in Lansing tomorrow to formally launch the “Protect Our Jobs” campaign. Grassroots volunteers will begin gathering signatures tomorrow to place a constitutional amendment on the November ballot to protect collective bargaining rights, and strengthen the middle class.

Here's more from MPRN's Rick Pluta:

A ballot drive will launch tomorrow to try to guarantee collective bargaining rights in the state constitution.

The so-called Protect Our Jobs campaign will be run by a coalition of unions and progressive political groups. The campaign wants to put a question on the November ballot asking voters to approve an amendment to the state constitution.

The amendment would preempt about 80 measures pending before the Legislature that would restrict union organizing, dues collections, and how political donations are collected. It would also block efforts to enact a right-to-work law in Michigan.

The campaign would have until July 9th to collect more 323,000 signatures of registered voters to make its goal of qualifying for the November ballot.

Organizers also hope the question would help boost turnout by Democratic voters in the election.

GEO / YouTube

The Republican-led Michigan House has approved a bill aimed at blocking unionization efforts by graduate student research assistants at public universities.

The measure was approved Thursday by a 62-45, mostly party line vote. The House hasn't yet taken a procedural "immediate effect" vote or returned the bill to the Senate, which approved the bill last month. But the measure soon could be headed to Republican Gov. Rick Snyder.

The legislation specifies that graduate student research assistants would not be considered public employees as related to collective bargaining rights.

The measure comes as University of Michigan graduate student research assistants attempt to unionize.

That case is pending before an administrative judge after the Michigan Employment Relations Commission last year reaffirmed a 1981 decision that bars research assistants from banding together.

A spokeswoman says Governor Snyder is ‘inclined’ to sign the bill into law. If he signs it, the case before the Michigan Employment Relations Commission would be moot.

University of Michigan Graduate Employees Union president Sam Montgomery had a request for Governor Snyder.

“We ask that when the bill reaches the governor’s desk that he leaves this decision in the hands of the commission which is designed to make those decisions," said Montgomery.

A majority of the U of M Regents support letting the graduate research assistants form a union.   But University president Mary Sue Coleman and many U of M professors oppose it.

University professors who support the bill say allowing their research assistants to form a union would undermine their mentor-relationship.

GEO

Yesterday, Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody reported on state legislation that would block graduate student research assistants at public universities from forming a union.

Today, the full Senate passed that measure.

From the Associated Press:

The measure was passed Wednesday by a 26-12 vote along party lines. The legislation advances to the Republican-led House.

The legislation specifies that graduate student research assistants would not be considered public employees as related to collective bargaining rights.

The bill (S.B. 971), sponsored by State Senate leader Randy Richardville (R-Monroe), was officially opposed by the University of Michigan Board of Regents in an "emergency meeting" called yesterday.

The vote to oppose the bill fell along party lines - six Democrats for, two Republicans against.

Michigan Radio's Jennifer Guerra reported U of M Regent Laurence Deitch (D) said because the Michigan Employment Relations Commission is in the middle of deciding about the union vote, "adoption of this law would be tantamount to changing the rules of the game in the middle of that game." Deitch also said the bill infringes on the University’s internal decision making processes.

Some graduate research assistants have been trying to form a union at the University of Michigan for decades.

The University of Michigan administration has long contended that the graduates assistants are students and not employees, and therefore do not have a right to form a union.

However, last May, the University of Michigan Board of Regents voted to recognize the graduate assistants as employees - moving the possibility of a vote to form a union one step closer.

Such a vote would have to be approved by the Michigan Employment Relations Commission (MERC).

But if the Senate-passed bill is signed into law, a decision by the MERC would be moot.

University of Michigan near Rackham and Michigan League
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A group of University of Michigan graduate research assistants suffered a significant defeat today in a state senate committee. The senate Government Operations committee passed a bill that would specifically prevent university graduate research assistants from forming a union.       

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville says a union could interfere with the relationship between students and teachers.

“That relationship is a special relationship…it is one of learning and mentorship…and I think its important that we don’t interfere with that from the outside," Richardville said after the committee meeting.   

Samantha Montgomery is the president of the Graduate Employees Organization.  She remains optimistic that the hundreds of U of M graduate research assistants will eventually have a chance to vote on forming a union.   Montgomery says grad students like working with their professors on academic research. 

“And we are hopeful the presence of a union would help maintain that working relationship," says Montgomery. 

The Michigan Employment Relations Commission is considering the grad students’ application to hold a union vote.    But the proposed state law may make that process moot. 

Both sides accuse the other of playing politics with the issue.    Today’s vote was along partisan political lines, with three Republicans voting for the bill and two Democrats voting against. 

The results of a union vote are not certain.   A sizable number of U of M graduate research assistants signed a petition opposing a union.

user k1ds3ns4t10n / Flickr

UAW President Bob King referred last week to a “new movement for social justice” this spring, and now we know what he’s talking about. The UAW’s Facebook page on Thursday features a big photo promoting the 99% Spring, sending its readers to a new Web site called The99Spring.com.

Niala Boodhoo / Changing Gears

Midwest states are changing their relationships with unions.

Last week, Indiana became the first in the region to become a right to work state.

Last year, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker dismantled collective bargaining rights for state workers. Public safety workers were supposed to be exempt.

A year later, though, hundreds of police, firefighters and paramedics find they’re also getting less pay.

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WASHINGTON (AP) - Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder is questioning the approach of his fellow Republican governors in the upper Midwest.

He said in an interview with The Associated Press that their efforts to push through divisive legislation may make governing more difficult in the long run.

Snyder says he sees large protests in Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana about anti-union laws as unfortunate. He says pushing the contentious legislation means those states will have overcome
divisiveness and hard feelings in the future.

Snyder spoke to the AP on Wednesday, while in Washington to a congressional committee about job creation.

Snyder says he prefers a consensus approach to governing. He says government should do what it can, find areas of agreement and get that done rather than focus on potentially divisive legislation.

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

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Indiana is the first Rust Belt state to enact the contentious right-to-work labor law prohibiting labor contracts that require workers to pay union representation fees, after Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels signed the bill Wednesday afternoon.

The Senate approved the measure a few hours earlier Wednesday, following weeks of discord that saw House Democrats boycott the Legislature and thousands of protesters gather at the Statehouse.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Employees in unionized workplaces would have to annually renew their written consent allowing union dues to be deducted from their paychecks under legislation approved by a Republican-led Michigan House committee today.

More from the Associated Press:

The proposal approved Tuesday by a 4-2 party line vote in the House Oversight, Reform and Ethics Committee is opposed by Democrats and unions who consider the legislation unnecessary and an attack on labor organizations.

Supporters of the bill say it wouldn't allow employees to avoid paying a "fair share" contribution or fee related to operating a union. But it would give workers more control over whether money is collected for political activities or other functions.

In Michigan, employees in unionized workplaces have the option of opting out on part of their union dues.

Michigan Radio's Lester Graham provided an example of this in his report last week.

He spoke with Terry Bowman, a person who considers himself a "'union conservative":

Right now, by law, he’s required to pay union dues. He has the option of not being part of the union, but he still has to pay what’s called an agency fee. The agency fee covers the cost of the union’s collective bargaining and grievance handling.

It’s slightly less than regular union dues because it does not include money that’s used to make direct political contributions.

The measure to force annual written consent for union paycheck deductions advances to the House floor.

user "Dmitri" Beljan / Flickr

Some Republicans in the Michigan House want to give workers in union shops the option not to pay union dues. Unions in the state say that’s something that they’d “take to the streets” to fight. 

But not all union members agree.

Terry Bowman works at a Ford plant in Ypsilanti. He’s a member of the United Auto Workers.

He calls himself a 'union conservative.'

A package of Republican bills in the state Legislature would boost penalties for public workers who go on strike. The legislation would also let employers sue striking workers who get in the way of their businesses, and make it more complicated for unions to get dues deducted from employee paychecks.

The state House Oversight, Reform, and Ethics Committee opened hearings on the package today. 

“It’s just to give clarity," said Rep. Tom McMillin (R-Auburn Hills), who chairs the committee. "Strikes that are illegal are really illegal. We’ve seen people try to get to the gray areas and we’re trying to reduce the gray and make it as black and white as we can.”

Union leaders say it’s been years since there’s been any kind of public employee strike in Michigan, and they say the measures are really just meant to harass unions.

“It’s not enough to draw and quarter somebody; You also have to waterboard them and, besides that, shoot them through the heart," said Mary Ellen Gurwitz, an attorney with the Michigan AFL-CIO. 

Hearings on the bills are expected to continue next week.

Danny Birchall / Flickr

People who want to end compulsory union membership in Michigan are closely watching Indiana. Debate began in that state’s Capitol today to make Indiana the first “right-to-work” state in the industrial Midwest.

The legislation would ban the requirement that workers pay union dues as a condition of holding a job.

Michigan “right-to-work” supporters say the Indiana debate boosts their cause in a state where Republican Governor Rick Snyder has said the issue is too divisive to tackle.

State Representative Mike Shirkey disagrees with Snyder and plans to introduce a “right-to-work” bill in the Michigan Legislature.

DETROIT (AP) - Two former union officials have been sentenced to prison for threatening to prolong a strike against General Motors for personal gain.

Donny Douglas and Jay Campbell had been placed on probation, but the light punishments were overturned by an appeals court.

Douglas got 18 months in prison Monday while Campbell received a year and a day. They had been accused of threatening to extend a three-month strike at the Pontiac truck factory in 1997 unless a
friend and family member were hired for $150,000 jobs.

Prosecutors say it was akin to public corruption.

The appeals court overturned the original sentences because a judge failed to consider the financial loss suffered by GM when the two people were hired and many UAW members filed grievances.

courtesy UM GEO

Some graduate student research assistants at the University of Michigan, also known as GSRAs, have wanted to unionize under the "Graduate Employee Organization" for decades.

A decision on whether attempts to unionize graduate students can move forward is coming up at a December 13 meeting of the Michigan Employment Relations Commission.

The MERC is expected to vote whether to direct an administrative law judge to determine whether GSRAs are university "employees" or "students."

Many University of Michigan administrators and deans argue the GSRAs are students, not employees.

It they're determined to be employees, the 2,200 GSRAs can hold a vote on whether or not to unionize.

Now, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, on behalf of the people of Michigan, he says, has decided to jump into this administrative debate.

CMU

The Central Michigan University Faculty Association held a strike on the first day of classes last August. The union said the CMU administration was not bargaining on their new contract in good faith.

A judge ordered the striking faculty members back to work and a state appointed fact finder heard both sides of the grievances in early September.

Now that fact finder, Barry Goldman, has let issued a report siding with the CMU administration on salary and benefit issues, according to Lindsay Knake of the Saginaw News.

More from the Saginaw News:

With salary adjustments, Goldman acknowledged in the report CMU has $228 million in unrestricted net assets, but said the university cannot be as generous with the funds as it appears.

“The CMU proposal of a zero increase in the first year and modest increases in subsequent years is not an unreasonable offer, all things considered. Circumstances are bad and getting worse. It would be extremely unwise for CMU to eat its seed corn,” Goldman’s statement said.

The administration’s offer includes a wage freeze for one year with increases equal to 4 percentage points over three years.

Golman also said the faculty should accept the health care plan being offered by the administration. His findings are non-binding, according to the Saginaw News.

Update, 6:30 pm:

Speaking with reporters on a late afternoon conference call, UAW President Bob King says its International Executive Board followed the union’s constitution, which gives skilled trades workers a separate right of ratification on skilled trades issues.

But King says the board investigated the reasons skilled trades workers voted the contract down. He says according to Facebook posts and leaflets, the main reasons were general economic ones affecting all workers, such as bonuses - and not issues specific to skilled trades workers.

"You want to protect the rights of the minority, but you can’t let the minority overrule the rights of the majority," King said.

King says with all three contracts with the Detroit automakers now finalized, the union will turn its attention to organizing efforts, and the 2012 elections.

Here's the breakout of the vote, according to the UAW:

FAIRFAX, Va. (AP) - A day after he refused to endorse an Ohio ballot measure that limits public employee union rights, Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney said Wednesday that he is "110
percent" behind the effort.

While he was in Ohio on Tuesday, Romney seemed to distance himself from anti-union measures that have lost popularity in recent months. Campaigning a day later, the former Massachusetts governor told reporters that he supports the ballot measure aimed at restricting collective bargaining rights for state employees.

"I'm sorry if I created any confusion in that regard. I fully support Gov. (John) Kasich's - I think it's called Question Two in Ohio. Fully support that," Romney said after visiting a local GOP office in the Washington suburbs. "Actually, on my website, I think back as early as April, I laid out that I support Question Two and Gov. Kasich's effort to restrict collective bargaining in Ohio."

DETROIT (AP) - Karla Swift is the new president of the Michigan AFL-CIO, succeeding Mark Gaffney who led the labor group for 12 years.

Swift is described as a lifelong trade unionist and a leader in the United Auto Workers. Delegates at the state convention in Detroit on Monday chose her and new secretary-treasurer Daryl Newman.

National AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka says Swift and Newman will "bring energy, fresh ideas and focus." The Michigan AFL-CIO is affiliated with unions that represent roughly 350,000 active members and nearly as many retirees.

Swift says Michigan's "job crisis" is her top priority. She says she'll fiercely defend the right of workers to engage in collective bargaining. Gaffney did not run for re-election as AFL-CIO leader.

On Monday, Mark Gaffney, who has been president of the state AFL-CIO for a dozen years, will turn over the job to Karla Swift, a longtime staffer for the United Auto Workers union.

user santoshkrishnan / Flickr

Update - 3:07 p.m.

More thoughts on the newly ratified UAW-GM contract from Micky Maynard with Changing Gears:

General Motors gave some new details today on its just-ratified agreement with the United Auto Workers union. Among them: up to 25 percent of its workforce could be “two-tiers” — new hires at lower rates than veteran workers.

Changing Gears reporter Kate Davidson profiled two-tier workers last year. Right now, they’re only 4 percent of GM’s workforce, but the auto company clearly has plans for more of them.

There’s a caveat, though. In order for GM to hire more workers, auto sales have to pick up, company executives said during a conference call with Wall Street analysts. And it isn’t promising to hire the same number of workers as it sees sales go up: it will study its staffing needs and hire accordingly. 

The new contract runs through 2015 and caps the number of “two-tiers” at 25 percent at the end of the contract. It calls for the new hires to get a raise to nearly $20 an hour by 2015 (veteran workers are paid about $28 an hour now).

Other GM highlights:

  • The number of people working in its U.S. factories has dropped sharply. GM had 110,000 hourly production workers in 2005, according to its presentation. In 2008, the year before it filed for bankruptcy production, GM had 78,000 U.S. workers. Now, GM has just 49,000 hourly workers, or less than half what it had six years ago.
  • For the first time in 58 years, GM does not expect its pension expense to rise under the new contract. One reason is that newly hired workers will not be covered by GM’s traditional pension plan; they will receive a 401(k) retirement program instead.
  • GM says it still has 700 workers laid off from their jobs. They have first dibs on jobs at GM plants, including the workers it plans to hire when it reopens its factory in Spring Hill, Tenn. Once those workers have been offered the chance to come back, then GM will hire new workers, including temporaries.

Read more about the GM contract in The New York Times.

1:05 p.m.

More from Pete Bigelow of Changing Gears:

General Motors became the first domestic automaker to reach an official agreement on a new contract with members of the United Auto Workers union Wednesday afternoon.

The UAW said in a written release that 65 percent of production workers and 63 percent of skilled trade workers voted in favor of the agreement, which had been tentatively agreed upon Sept 16. A four-year contract provides a wage increase for entry-level workers, and goes into effect immediately.

The agreement would create 6,400 jobs in the United States, the release said.

“When it seems like everyone in America is getting cuts in benefits and paying higher co-pays and deductibles, we were able to maintain and improve on our current benefits,” said UAW vice president Joe Ashton.

GM CEO Dan Akerson is expected to hold a conference call with Wall Street analysts at 2 p.m.

12:37 p.m.

The deal is complete. UAW members officially ratified their contract with General Motors.

From the Detroit Free Press:

The UAW said today that its members have ratified a new four-year labor agreement with GM that gives workers a $5,000 signing bonus and is expected to preserve or add 6,400 U.S. jobs.

It is the first contract for 48,500 GM hourly workers since the automaker’s 2009 bankruptcy and restructuring.

The union said the vote was 65% in favor of the agreement among production workers, and 63% in favor among skilled-trades workers.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Today, the Michigan House of Representatives passed legislation that would keep public schools from automatically deducting union dues from an employee's paycheck. The vote passed 55-53 and goes onto the Republican-led Senate.

From the Associated Press:

Supporters of the bill say it will put more money in teachers' paychecks, at least up front. Teachers could write checks to unions later to cover their dues.

Opponents say the proposal is another attempt to weaken teachers' unions and inconvenience teachers in the state.

A separate proposal that could soon come up in the Michigan Legislature would make Michigan a so-called "right to teach" state.

Michigan Speaker of the House Jase Bolger released a statement about the bill, saying that the legislation "empowers school employees.":

We are hearing from teachers, in particular, who are not happy with how union leaders are using their dues. Because that has led to disagreement, we need to make sure our public schools stay out of the middle of collecting union dues.

The Michigan Education Association, the state's largest teachers union, says the legislation does nothing to improve education or put money back in members pockets:

"This kind of legislation is a blatant example of political payback for our involvement in recall elections."

The Republican leader of the state Senate says he has no interest in making Michigan a right-to-work state.

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville says union workers have already made many concessions to help Michigan’s economic outlook.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Workers at the American Red Cross Mid-Michigan chapter are on the picket line, after a strike deadline passed without a deal.

Red Cross spokeswoman Monica Stoneking says the strike will drastically reduce blood collection efforts in 65 Michigan counties:

"In the Great Lakes region alone, we need to collect about 700 units of blood every day to meet the hospital needs and the needs of the patients we serve, and not being able to collect those blood products really puts our blood supply in jeopardy," said Stoneking.

Stoneking hopes negotiations will resolve the standoff soon.

"We're preparing for at least ten days," said Stoneking. "We're calling on other regions that aren’t affected by the union to increase our blood collection so that our national blood supply is healthy."

The strike affects about 280 nurses and staff who handle blood. They’ve been working without a contract since 2008.

Union officials say the two sides are far apart on many issues.

Talks are scheduled to resume September 17.

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