labor unions

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.

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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.

Changing Gears
9:30 am
Fri February 17, 2012

The next phase in protests: Get ready for the "99% Spring"

The "Occupy" movement in Detroit. Will the movement sprout again this spring?
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.

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Changing Gears
11:59 am
Wed February 8, 2012

Originally exempt, Wisconsin police and firefighters now face cuts (Part 2)

Cory Roberts says he worries what will happen to his fellow firefighters after a number of towns in Wisconsin have tried to balance their budgets by increasing pension and healthcare costs for public safety workers.
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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Politics
5:29 pm
Wed February 1, 2012

Snyder questions approach of fellow Republican governors

Rick Snyder says pushing divisive legislation like "right-to-work" makes governing more difficult.
Facebook

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.

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Politics
4:37 pm
Wed February 1, 2012

Indiana joins "right-to-work" ranks, first state in a decade to do so

screen grab from a video showing protestors outside the Indiana Capitol building.
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.

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Politics
3:12 pm
Tue January 31, 2012

Union dues bill approved by Michigan House panel today

It passed out of committee, now the Michigan House of Representatives will take up the measure.
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.

Investigative
10:50 am
Fri January 27, 2012

Michigan to become a 'right-to-work' state?

By law in Michigan, workers in unionized work places are required to pay union dues. There's an option to not be part of the union, but an "agency fee" still has to be paid. That covers the cost of the union's collective bargaining and grievance handling.
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.'

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Politics
5:31 pm
Tue January 17, 2012

Legislation to get tough on unions has labor crying foul

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.

Politics
5:06 pm
Wed January 4, 2012

Supporters say Indiana debate builds pressure to approve “right-to-work” in Michigan

A button from the "Right to Work" campaign of the 1970s. An entirely different campaign from the one being organized today.
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.

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Politics
12:52 pm
Tue December 20, 2011

Ex-union leaders sent to prison for labor dispute

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.

Education
2:26 pm
Thu December 1, 2011

Should UM research assistants unionize? Michigan Attorney General weighs in

Members of the Graduate Employees Organization picketing on the North Campus of the University of Michigan in 2008. Many University administrators and deans maintain these research assistants are not "employees."
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.

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Education
4:37 pm
Tue November 1, 2011

Fact finder sides with CMU administration in dispute over salary and benefits

A state-appointed fact finder has issued a report on the dispute between the Central Michigan University Faculty Association and the administration.
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.

Auto/Economy
6:38 pm
Wed October 26, 2011

UAW declares Chrysler deal ratified, despite split

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:

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Politics
1:20 pm
Wed October 26, 2011

Romney reverses himself, supports anti-union ballot measure in Ohio

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."

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Politics
2:36 pm
Mon October 3, 2011

Michigan AFL-CIO elects new leader after 12 years

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.

Politics
11:39 am
Fri September 30, 2011

Mark Gaffney: Worried About the Workers

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.

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