labor unions

Politics & Government
6:59 pm
Wed July 18, 2012

Bing imposes new contract terms on most Detroit city workers

Dave Bing

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.”

Read more
Politics & Government
11:39 am
Fri July 13, 2012

Detroit financial board OKs plan for union cuts

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.

Politics
1:23 pm
Sun May 13, 2012

Union rally Monday for Rep. John Conyers

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.

Politics
12:26 pm
Wed May 2, 2012

Detroit unions weigh strike option as layoffs loom

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.

Economy
12:50 pm
Fri April 20, 2012

Flint's emergency manager working out new union contracts

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).

Read more
Education
6:06 pm
Wed April 18, 2012

U of M grad students challenge ban on forming unions

Members of the Graduate Employees Organization picketing on the North Campus of the University of Michigan in 2008.
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.

Politics
11:53 am
Fri April 13, 2012

Two police unions approve new contracts with Flint

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.

Politics
1:19 pm
Tue April 10, 2012

Michigan Gov. Snyder signs bill affecting home health program

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.

Politics
12:01 pm
Tue April 10, 2012

State commission puts GSRA decision on hold after court ruling

Graduate student research assistants picketing on UM's Ann Arbor campus.
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.

Politics
10:19 am
Fri April 6, 2012

Flint's emergency manager wants more time to work on union contracts

Flint emergency manager, Michael Brown.

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.

News Roundup
8:37 am
Thu April 5, 2012

In this morning's Michigan news headlines...

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."

Changing Gears
11:16 am
Mon April 2, 2012

Spring has sprung; 99% spring events are coming

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.

Politics
11:06 am
Mon April 2, 2012

After offering concessions, Detroit unions won't get a vote

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.

Politics
1:47 pm
Fri March 23, 2012

Detroit unions agree to pay cuts amid city's financial crisis

Downtown Detroit at night.
user pablocosta wikimedia commons

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.

Politics
1:27 pm
Mon March 19, 2012

Union-backed measures a step closer to November ballot in Michigan

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.

Politics
6:48 pm
Tue March 6, 2012

Ballot drive launched to push back against "anti-labor measures"

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.

Read more
Politics
4:12 pm
Mon March 5, 2012

Ballot campaign seeks to stop Michigan lawmakers from enacting "Right-to-Work" law

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.

Politics
3:57 pm
Thu March 1, 2012

Bill aimed at keeping Michigan grad students from unionizing passes House

UM graduate student research assistants James Henderson and Elaine Landy testify in front of a committee in the Michigan House of Representatives against SB 971 which would prohibit the GSRA's from forming a union.
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.

Politics
2:51 pm
Wed February 22, 2012

Michigan Senate passes bill blocking union vote by university graduate assistants

Graduate student research assistants picketing on UM's Ann Arbor campus.
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.

Education
2:41 pm
Tue February 21, 2012

State Senate committee deals blow to U of M grad students' hopes to unionize

Students walk on the University of Michigan's Ann Arbor campus (file photo)
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.

Pages