public employees

Politics & Government
11:09 am
Tue October 15, 2013

As the debt ceiling deadline looms, Michigan's budget director says he's 'nervous'

The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, or "Super Committee," failed to come up with a compromise to reduce the deficit. Michigan members of the Super Committee spoke about the experience.
U.S. Congress congress.gov

In today's top story in the New York Times, "officials from several states" described potential consequences should our representatives in Congress fail to meet Thursday's debt ceiling deadline.

Michigan's budget director says the state is preparing for the unknown.

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Politics & Government
10:17 am
Wed July 17, 2013

Legislation would allow petition campaigns to cap public employee benefits

Leon Drolet
Wikipedia

There’s legislation pending in Lansing that would allow voters to amend local charters to cap public employee compensation and benefits.

Courts have held that local initiatives don’t trump collective bargaining rights.

Former state Representative Leon Drolet heads the Michigan Taxpayers Alliance. He says the legislation is an effort to get around that, to let voters run ballot drives and amend city charters.

“There would still be a collective bargaining process,” Drolet explained. “They would still set benefit levels, but there would be a cap on what the city could agree to, and what could be part of that negotiating process. Right now, there’s no cap.”

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Politics & Government
4:09 pm
Mon December 31, 2012

500 layoffs looming for Detroit employees

Police, firefighters, even bus services are struggling to provide basic services.
Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

Nobody thought fixing Detroit’s debt woes was gonna be easy.

But these days, it might be especially painful for city workers and their families.

Some 2,000 pink slips have already gone out in the last few years. And now, another 500 cuts are scheduled for February.

It’s already worrying union leaders like Leamon Wilson. The president of the AFSCME Local 312 told the Detroit News that more cuts could cripple the city’s bus service. “You can’t deliver the service…It was already functioning at a bare minimum. I don’t see how anything is going to be functioning.”

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Breaking
12:16 pm
Thu December 6, 2012

'Right-to-work' legislation to be unveiled in Michigan today

Protesters in the Michigan Capitol last night demonstrating against the push for right-to-work legislation.
Rick Pluta MPRN

Update 12:16 p.m.

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

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

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

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

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

Police and fire workers will be excluded.

The bills are expected to move quickly.

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

10:42 a.m.

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

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

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

We'll find out soon enough.

10:12 a.m.

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

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

From the Detroit Free Press:

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

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

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

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

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

Politics & Government
5:11 pm
Tue September 4, 2012

First day of classes in Michigan marked by new teacher retirement law

user kconnors morgueFile

The first day of classes was also the day Governor Rick Snyder made some big changes to how teachers and other public school employees will save for retirement.

The new law will require teachers to pay more for retirement benefits. New employees will no longer get retirement health care coverage, but a savings account to help them buy insurance.
    
Teachers unions are already in court to challenge the law, but Governor Snyder said he's not worried about the lawsuit. He said he expects to be sued when his administration makes big changes.

"So I sort of take that as part of the course of action, but we feel good about our litigation position in these matters. These are good things to do. We are doing them in good faith in partnership with the Legislature passing good statute," said Snyder.

The governor and many school administrators say the teacher pension system is over-burdened with debt, and the changes will ensure teachers' benefits will be there when they retire.

Law
10:48 am
Fri August 17, 2012

Michigan Court: Teachers deduction for retiree health care unconstitutional

Flickr

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The Michigan Court of Appeals has ruled unconstitutional a state law forcing school employees to pay 3 percent of their salary toward retiree health care.

A copy of Thursday's 2-1 ruling was released Friday.

The contribution was put into place in 2010, and unions representing teachers filed suit. In 2011, retired Ingham County Circuit Judge James Giddings, who was hearing the case before he stepped down and returned to finish the job, ruled that school employees were paying into a system that may not ultimately benefit them.

The contribution was instituted as part of an effort to save hundreds of millions of dollars for the state. MLive.com reports some unions want the money to be refunded.

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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Economy
5:58 pm
Thu December 15, 2011

Michigan town grapples with shrinking public sector

Inkster, Mich., resident Darrel Osborne says he's noticed the reduced police presence in the city.
Sarah Hulett for NPR

Originally published on Wed December 14, 2011 2:47 pm

Tammi Warren has lived on the same winding street in the Detroit suburb of Inkster, Mich., all her life. But as she drives down the block in her Ford pickup, Warren points to several houses on her street that stand vacant, casualties of the housing market collapse.

Vacant houses mean less tax revenue for the city, and less revenue makes it harder for Inkster to provide basic city services.

"[The] city of Inkster has eliminated 38 positions," says City Treasurer Mark Stuhldreher. "It's about 25 percent, roughly, of the workforce."

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Politics
2:58 pm
Thu September 1, 2011

No layoff notices for Michigan's state employees

Update 3:12 p.m.

Governor Rick Snyder has decided not to send out 30-day layoff notices to thousands of state workers while contract bargaining continues.

Allowing today’s deadline to pass means no workers can be laid off with the start of the state’s new fiscal year on October 1.

The governor’s spokeswoman says he wants to send a signal that he’s confident a deal can be reached without resorting to layoffs and other temporary solutions to keep the state budget balanced.

Ray Holman is with UAW Local 6000, the largest state employee union. He says the decision not to send layoff notices was the right one.

 "We agree with Governor Snyder that we need to make structural changes and what we need to do is look at the private contracts and then also invest in frontline staff, invest in the foot soldiers - the people actually doing the work."

Holman says that means managers should be first in line to lose their jobs to budget cuts.

The Snyder administration is trying to convince state employees to pick up a bigger share of their health and retirement costs.

The administration is looking for a total of $265 million dollars in employee savings.

2:58 p.m.

Governor Rick Snyder's administration will not send layoff notices to state employees as contract talks continue.

Snyder's spokeswoman says he wants to send a signal to state employees that he believes a deal can be struck before the state's new fiscal year begins on October 1.

State contracts require 30-day notice before layoffs can occur.

Politics
11:04 am
Thu August 25, 2011

Local Control and Health Care

As you may know by now, the Michigan Legislature passed a bill  yesterday limiting how much local governments and schools can spend to provide health care for their employees.

The new law, which Governor Snyder is expected to sign, says local governments can contribute a maximum of fifty-five hundred dollars an employee, or fifteen thousand dollars a family.

Their only other option is to split health coverage cost with the employees, as long as the workers pay at least twenty percent.

Local governments can opt out of these requirements, but it won’t be easy. They’d have to do so by a two-thirds vote of their council or school board, and take a new vote every year.

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Politics
4:24 pm
Tue August 23, 2011

Michigan legislature to vote on changes to healthcare benefits

The legislature will vote on changes to health care benefits for public employees tomorrow.
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

Thousands of teachers and local government employees will have to pay more for their health care benefits under a plan to be voted on tomorrow at the state Capitol.

The plan limits what school districts and local governments can pay for health benefits.

A legislative committee approved the measure today. It's expected to be voted on tomorrow by the House and the Senate.

It will require local governments to pay no more than 80 percent of their employee health care costs, or limit the payment to $15,000 a year per family.    

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State Legislature
6:37 am
Thu July 28, 2011

Speaker Bolger cuts House employees' benefits

State House Speaker Jase Bolger (R)
Michigan Municipal League Flickr

Lawmakers and staff members of the Michigan House will be required to pay more for their health insurance benefits come October 1st. The change was ordered by House Speaker Jase Bolger.

Bolger made the decision to require all state House employees to pay as much as 20 percent of their health insurance benefits alongside an 18 percent reduction to the money lawmakers have allotted for their office expenses. “And that’s not pleasant for anyone, and we empathize with them,” says Ari Adler, Speaker Bolger’s spokesman. Adler continues, “but we also empathize with the taxpayers who are facing many similar situations in their own households, and we all have to share in the sacrifice.”

The changes ordered by Bolger’s office comes amidst a debate between the House and Senate over how much teachers and local government employees should be required to pay for their health benefits.

Adler says House lawmakers need to lead by example if they plan to cut benefits for other public workers. The House Democratic caucus supports the new policy, but many Democrats oppose passing a law to force public employees to pay more for their benefits.

Politics
4:25 pm
Wed May 18, 2011

Senate bill passes - requires public employees pay 20% of health benefit costs

The Michigan Senate chamber.
user cedarbenddrive Flickr

Most public employees would be required to pay at least 20 percent of their health benefit costs under a bill approved by the Republican-controlled Michigan Senate.

The measure was approved along a mostly party line vote.

Republican state Senator Mark Jansen sponsored the measure. 

"Not all of us are all that excited all the time about doing these things," said Jansen. "In fact we know people that this impacts – in fact if you look in the mirror, it’ll impact each one of you sitting here today. But we know it’s the right thing to do – and I know that’s very subjective."

Democratic state Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer says the state is asking too much from public employees – especially teachers.

"I heard Governor Snyder defend the $250,000 price tag for his budget director by saying 'you get what you pay for,'" Whitmer said. "Well isn’t that true for the most important people to our kid’s success as well? Why is that rationale sufficient for the governor paying taxpayer dollars, and not true for the people working every day to help our kids?"

The Senate also approved a constitutional amendment that would give the Legislature control over the benefit plans of university employees and state civil service employees.

That plan is unlikely to clear the state House, where Republicans don’t have the two-thirds majority needed to put the measure on the ballot.

Politics
1:33 pm
Wed May 18, 2011

Michigan bill would freeze pay between contracts

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Republicans in the Michigan Senate have approved a bill that would freeze pay and benefits for union-represented public employees including teachers working under expired contracts.

The bill that passed by a 21-17 mostly party-line vote Wednesday now returns to the Republican-led House, which already has passed the bill and could soon send it to Gov. Rick Snyder.

The bill calls for public employers to provide no more than current pay and benefits after the expiration date of a collective bargaining agreement until a new contract is in place. It would eliminate or freeze so-called step increases sometimes paid by school districts regardless of contract status.

Democrats say the bill dabbles in issues that should be left to local decision-makers.

Republicans say the changes would give unions more incentive to bargain.

State Legislature
10:26 am
Wed April 13, 2011

Lawmakers move to shift health care costs

Inside the state Capitol, Lansing, Michigan
Cedar Bend Drive Flickr

Proposals to require public employees in Michigan to pay at least 20 percent of their health insurance costs have advanced in the state Legislature, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

A Republican-led Senate committee approved the measures Wednesday on party-line votes. Republican Sen. Mark Jansen of Kent County's Gaines Township says the measures could come up for votes on the Senate floor later this month.

The legislation would affect employees with the state, local governments, public school districts, public universities and other public employers.

Republicans say the measures are needed to help public employers control costs. Democrats say health care costs should be bargained in contracts.

Local units of government could exempt themselves from the act by a two-thirds vote of its governing body.

 The legislation is Senate Bill 7 and Senate Joint Resolution C.

Politics
11:03 pm
Mon April 4, 2011

Unions invoke MLK legacy in Detroit rally

Labor supporters rally in Detroit's Hart Plaza
Sarah Cwiek Michigan Radio

Hundreds of labor union supporters rallied against attacks on collective bargaining rights in Detroit Monday.

The rally was one of dozens nationwide commemorating Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination.

King was killed during a 1968 trip to Memphis to support that city’s striking black sanitation workers. National labor leaders are highlighting this lesser-known part of King’s legacy as they fight new state laws that restrict unions’ collective bargaining rights.

Canton resident Natalie Mosher came to the downtown Detroit rally. She says Governor Snyder and state Republicans have gone too far.

"I’m here to support all working people. I was a former teacher and I think what is happening in Michigan today is just not acceptable.”

The Governor recently signed a bill granting Emergency Financial Managers broad powers, including the right to throw out union contracts.

Former Delphi worker Stacey Kemp drove from near Saginaw to attend the rally. Kemp says everyone should be concerned about the many new state laws that restrict workers’ right to collective bargaining.

“Whether they’re union or non-union, this is going to directly affect all middle and working-class people. If they’re allowed to get away with this, we might as well just kiss our grandchildren goodbye, and they’re going to live in a third-world country.”

The AFL-CIO and other organizers say the King-inspired rallies are part of a continued campaign to fight that law and similar measures in other states.