labor unions

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.

Read more
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:

Read more
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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Auto/Economy
3:07 pm
Wed September 28, 2011

UAW membership approves 4-year deal with GM

A view from GM's Headquarters. The UAW membership and GM have agreed to a four-year contract. The team from Changing Gears share their analysis.
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.

Politics
4:56 pm
Thu September 15, 2011

Michigan House says no auto-deduction allowed for teacher union dues

The Michigan House of Representatives voted 55-53 to stop schools from automatically deducting union dues from employees' paychecks.
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."

Politics
2:46 pm
Fri September 9, 2011

Senate leader does not want "right-to-work" in Michigan

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.

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