right to work

Today I am going to talk about something in which I could be accused of having a conflict of interest. Normally, we try not to do that, and if it were only something affecting me, I wouldn’t. But the people really being threatened here are thousands of young people in Michigan, and the state‘s future.

I am talking about a vote yesterday in a state house of representatives subcommittee designed to punish schools and universities who agree to contracts with their faculty and staff that lawmakers don’t like for ideological reasons. This has to do with the anti-union, right to work legislation that was rammed through a lame-duck session of the legislature last December. This bill doesn’t take effect until eight days from how, so technically Michigan is not a right to work state yet.

Shawn Wilson / wikimedia

This week in Michigan politics, Christina Shockley and Jack Lessenberry discuss what's ahead for Kevyn Orr, the soon to be emergency manager for Detroit. They also talk about how some universities might face cuts after renegotiating labor contracts before the right to work law goes into effect later this month, and how the Blue Cross Blue Shield overhaul will affect the majority of Michiganders in the state.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Universities might take cut after skirting around new right to work law

"Some Michigan universities could lose 15-percent of their state funding over new union contracts. A state budget panel Tuesday voted to sanction schools that approve long-term contracts before the state’s new right-to-work law takes effect. That’s unless the contracts include cost savings of at least 10 percent," Jake Neher reports.

Health care exchange deadline Friday

The state has until Friday to come up with a plan on how to shop for health insurance online as part of the Affordable Care Act. As the Detroit Free Press reports,

"If the [health exchange bill] doesn't pass this week, it will end up solely in the federal government's hands. Gov. Rick Snyder has urged the Legislature to pass the health exchange bill as a way for the state to have input on how the exchange will run and which insurance companies appear on the exchange."

Govenor Snyder hopes Lansing will not need an EM

Governor Rick Snyder says he wants to prevent the city of Lansing from getting an emergency manager. Lansing faces a projected $9 million budget shortfall next year. According to MLive, the governor talked about the future financial situation of the city at the Lansing Regional Camber of Commerce's legislative dinner last night,

“If the city of Lansing wants to be proactive and talk about a consent agreement, I want to be a good partner.”

A consent agreement is the intermediate step between emergency management of a troubled municipality’s finances and complete local control.

On a 4-3 party-line vote, a Michigan House Appropriations subcommittee voted to punish universities the Republicans believe are trying to avoid the state's new right-to-work law.

That law goes into effect on March 28th.

Wayne State University and the University of Michigan have struck contracts with their unions ahead of that deadline.

Public universities that signed new contracts or contract extensions that did not achieve at least a 10 percent savings would face a 15 percent cut in state funding under a budget bill approved this morning.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The Lansing School District has reached a tentative contract agreement with its teachers union.

No details have been released. So it’s unclear whether the deal includes a provision to get around Michigan’s new Right to Work law. 

Lansing teachers’ tentative agreement comes at a time when other unions are racing to put contract extensions into place before Michigan’s new Right to Work law takes effect.

A handful of school districts and Wayne State University have signed extended contracts that would allow the unions to continue to enforce mandatory dues collection. 

State capitol
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

This week in Michigan politics, Jack Lessenberry and Christina Shockley discuss the trial of former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, the debate between the Detroit City Council and Governor Snyder over an impending emergency manager appointment in Detroit, and how unions are trying to get new contracts in place before the new right to work law takes affect later this month.

To hear their discussion, click on the audio above.

dannybirchall / flickr

Unions are rushing to sign contracts before Michigan's right to work law takes effect this month.

But one county is worried Republicans might retaliate.

In Saginaw County, the biggest public union wants to get a 10-year contract signed ASAP.

If that happens before March 28th, it can still require workers to pay for union dues – which will be illegal under the new law.

But county officials say they’re afraid Republicans will yank state dollars from the county as retribution.

County commissioner Michael Hanley says that’s a risk they just can’t take

user dig downtown detroit / Flickr

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The president of Wayne State University is urging lawmakers not to limit the university's state aid for approving an eight-yearlong contract with the faculty union.

Allan Gilmour asked the House Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee on Tuesday to "think beyond this contract and consider the whole university" when making appropriations.

Some Republican lawmakers have questioned the lengthy contract agreement made just before the contentious right-to-work law goes into effect March 28.

Republican Rep. Al Pscholka of Stevensville has proposed that that no university get a funding increase in the next budget if it signs a contract extension or renewal before March 28 - unless the contract guarantees at least 10 percent savings in labor costs.

Gilmour says longer contracts "provide a sense of stability for planning, for budgets and personnel."

House Republicans

A Republican state lawmaker wants school officials to justify employee contracts that could be used to skirt Michigan’s new right-to-work law.

The right-to-work law takes effect March 28. It allows workers to opt out of paying union dues and fees, but it cannot supersede existing contracts.

School officials in some Michigan districts have negotiated concessions with unions in exchange for dues arrangements that last as long as 10 years.

Schools have used the negotiations to get concessions on salaries and work rules.

State Representative Tom McMillin (R-Rochester Hills) is calling school officials before his oversight committee.

He says he wants them to prove taxpayers are getting their money’s worth out of the contracts.

He just called officials from Warren Consolidated Schools before his committee for a hearing in two weeks, but he cannot compel anyone to show up.

Earlier Taylor school officials declined to appear.

Wayne State University has yet to answer his request to have officials come before his committee to explain its employee contracts.

Unions seek contracts ahead of new Michigan law

Feb 18, 2013

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Some unions in Michigan are working to get new contracts approved before the state's right-to-work law takes effect next month to delay when they'll be affected by changes.

The Detroit News reports some see it as an effort to keep collecting dues from members until after a new contract expires. Union leaders representing teachers in Utica, Plymouth-Canton, Dearborn and Detroit school districts all are working toward new agreements.

The Lansing State Journal reports unions at Michigan State University and Lansing Community College are exploring the possibility of extending their labor contracts to delay the law's impact on them.

The law, passed last year, takes effect March 27. It prohibits requiring workers to pay union dues or fees, but contracts in place before that date are immune from the new rules.

David Defoe / flickr

This week in review Rina Miller and Jack Lessenberry discuss Detroit’s State of the City address, lawmakers conversation about abortions and Viagra coverage in Senate health plans, and the removal of Pure Michigan right to work ads.

Matthileo / Flickr

In this week in Michigan politics, Michigan Radio’s Christina Shockley and Jack Lessenberry discuss the possibility for an emergency manager for Detroit, lawsuits against the state’s right to work law and funding for dredging the Great Lakes.

david_shane / flickr

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - An Ingham County judge has dismissed a lawsuit challenging Michigan's right-to-work law.

The Lansing State Journal reports that Circuit Judge Rosemarie Aquilina rejected the suit on Monday because it should have been filed directly with the state Court of Appeals.

She didn't rule on the underlying legal challenge.

The right-to-work law takes effect in late March and makes it illegal to require financial support of a union as a condition of employment.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

MEAP scores show improvement

"State education officials say they’re excited by rising standardized test scores. They released the Michigan Educational Assessment Program results for 2012 Monday. Students in all grades showed improvements in math, reading, and writing," Jake Neher reports.

Unions sue to block right to work

"Labor unions are asking a federal judge in Detroit to block part of Michigan's right-to-work law from taking effect in late March. The lawsuit filed Monday is the second to challenge the law in recent weeks. It prohibits requiring workers to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment," the Associated Press reports.

Gov. Snyder looking at emergency managers for Detroit

"Governor Rick Snyder says he’ll be ready to move ahead with a state takeover of Detroit city hall – depending on the results of a financial review that should wrap up within several days. Governor Snyder says he’s already talked to prospective emergency managers in case a state takeover is called for," Rick Pluta reports.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Labor unions are asking a federal judge in Detroit to block part of Michigan's right-to-work law from taking effect in late March.

The lawsuit filed Monday is the second to challenge the law in recent weeks. It prohibits requiring workers to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment.

What a week in Michigan politics! The litigating has begun on the state’s new right-to-work law, keeping the controversy alive, in the media, and in the public eye. There’s a right-to-work case in a lower court as well, but Governor Snyder asked the Michigan Supreme Court to make some key rulings so state employees can start dropping out of their unions as soon as the end of March.

Electoral College Changes?

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Eight people have pleaded guilty to misdemeanors after being arrested inside the state Capitol building during a December protest against passage of Michigan's right-to-work law.

Their attorney says they won't get jail time under misdemeanor pleas entered Friday to a Lansing district judge. They will be sentenced in September.

The eight defendants from the Detroit area were arrested and charged with felony resisting and obstructing after police said they tried to push past two troopers guarding the Senate door on Dec. 6.

User: Brother O'Mara / Flickr

Deadly Pileup Leaves Three Dead

Southeastern Michigan is waking up to calmer weather this morning, and hopefully, safer driving.

A massive 30 vehicle pileup on I-75 Thursday morning killed two children and one adult. At least 20 others are injured, and several were hospitalized.

Stateside: ACLU files suit against right-to-work legislation

Jan 31, 2013
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The following is a summary of a previously recorded interview. To hear the complete segment, click the audio above.

Today the ACLU filed a lawsuit against right-to-work legislation.

Michigan Public Radio's Jake Neher spoke with Cyndy about the suit and its potential implications.

“They say for about four hours on the day right-to-work started moving through the legislature, the doors were closed. They say that that violates the Michigan Constitution which guarantees the residents of Michigan the right to assemble. There were people from the public inside at the time, they just weren’t letting in others," said Neher.

According to Neher, people across the state feel as if their voices are underrepresented.

“The people that brought this bill up say that they’re concerned that a win-or-take-all system for votes leaves people in certain parts of the state without a voice,” said Neher.

david_shane / flickr

Several labor unions and the Michigan ACLU have filed a lawsuit in Ingham County Court to overturn Michigan's right-to-work legislation.

This is several days after Gov. Rick Snyder requested that the Michigan Supreme Court review the constitutionality of the law.

The lawsuit argues that the closure of the Capitol to the public during the  passage of  the right-to-work legislation was in violation of  the First Amendment and the Michigan Constitution.

It specifically cites the violation of the Open Meetings Act, which states that meetings of a governing body are open to the public unless the meeting is held in a "closed session."

The lawsuit is amended from an earlier complaint filed Dec. 6 2012 after state police blocked off entry to the Capitol.

Police said the closure was a safety precaution, but opponents argue it prevented public input during the session.

Here is what members of the ACLU said in their press release:

“Rushing controversial bills through a lame duck session is a bad way to make public policy under the best of circumstances; doing so on such important issues while the public is shut out of the debate every step of the way is illegal and shameful,” said Kary L. Moss, ACLU of Michigan executive director. “We have a sacred right to peacefully assemble and petition our government. When there is dissent and emotions are running high, our elected leaders should encourage more open debate, not close the doors to concerned voters.”

The lawsuit does not address the actual content of the right-to-work law rather the manner in which the law was passed.

The court brief currently sits in front of County Circuit Judge William Collette for review.

- Marlon Phillips, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Michigan House Republicans release their 2013-2014 plan

Jan 30, 2013
Tim Martin / mlive.com

Earlier today, Michigan House Republicans announced their plan for  the 2013-2014 legislative session.

They call their plan, "Brighter Days Ahead: 2013-14 House Republican Action Plan for Hard-Working Michigan Taxpayers.

Speaker of the House John Bolger (R-Marshall) said this in their press release this morning:

"We are once again presenting the people we serve with a detailed, common-sense approach to resolving challenges that Michigan's hard-working men and women are facing,"

House Republicans say they plan on tackling the following issues:

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Let's skip the lawsuits and go straight to the top

That's the idea behind Gov. Snyder's call for the Michigan Supreme Court to rule on the constitutionality of the state's new right-to-work law.Rick Pluta explains where the legal challenges could come from:

One is whether exemptions in the law for police and firefighter unions violate the equal protection clause of the U-S Constitution. Another is whether the state Civil Service Commission has the autonomy under the Michigan Constitution to ignore the right-to-work law.

Opponents of the right-to-work legislation called the governor's move cynical, saying the legislation by-passed the normal committee process when it was written and now the Gov. is asking for it to by-pass the court system. The Supreme Court has a Republican majority of 4-2. It will likely be a 5-2 majority after Snyder appoints another Justice to fill a vacancy.

Ford made $5.67 billion in net income for 2012

It was a good year for the automaker. From the Detroit News:

It was in North America where Ford posted a 10.4 percent profit margin in 2012, and because of that success, 45,800 United Auto Workers hourly members will receive profit-sharing checks worth approximately $8,300, which will be paid in March.

Snow yesterday, rain today

Good conditions for flooding. From the National Weather Service:

An area of rainfall will accompany a warm front through southeast Michigan today... with another round of heavier rainfall expected to arrive tonight. This in combination with the melting snow and rapid runoff on frozen ground will allow area rivers and streams to rise and bring the potential for localized flooding of some low lying and poor drainage areas.

Official portrait

Governor Rick Snyder is not waiting on unions to challenge Michigan’s new right-to-work law in court.

Monday, he asked the Michigan Supreme Court to rule preemptively on some questions with the law.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The Michigan State Police spent an extra $900,000 on overtime and other expenses to have a large presence at the Capitol during demonstrations against a right-to-work law in December.

A state spokeswoman says nearly $803,000 was spent on overtime. Another $98,000 went toward travel, lodging and other expenses.

Stateside: Right-to-work legislation takes effect on March 27

Jan 28, 2013
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The following is a summary of a previously recorded interview. To hear the complete segment, click the audio above.

On March 27, Michigan will become the 24th state to adopt right-to-work legislation.

Roland Zullo of the Institute for Research on Labor, Employment and Economy at the University of Michigan and Vincent Vernuccio of The Mackinac Center for Public Policy spoke with Cyndy today about the legislation.

New data show sharp decline in state union membership

Jan 24, 2013
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan unions lost nearly 42,000 members over the course of 2012, representing about 10 percent of the nationwide decline in total membership.

The data come from a Bureau of Labor Statistics report that shows the percentage of American workers in unions dipped to its lowest rate in more than 70 years.

David Shepardson of The Detroit News has more:

Official Portrait

Governor Rick Snyder made his pitch for higher taxes and fees to pay for roads in his third State of the State address.

He says Michigan needs at least a billion additional dollars in the coming year to pay for badly needed repairs to the state’s ailing infrastructure.  He may also need a plan to repair his strained relationships with Democrats to get what he wants.

I suppose if I were a Martian in Michigan this week, I’d be a bit baffled about what we think is news, and why.

Actually, forget the Martian part. Frankly, I can’t figure out the thinking of the mainstream media, and I’ve been part of it since the 1970’s. Today, for example, the Detroit papers are devoting a lot of space to the auto show, which I understand. They also seem very excited that the National Hockey League strike is over, which I sort of understand.

There is also a story about the latest rumor that Jimmy Hoffa is buried somewhere, which is entirely inappropriate. We are only supposed to have one of these a year. We already dug up someone’s driveway last summer, and whoever is spreading the latest yarn needs to wait till August.

There’s a story about two brothers who stole their father’s corpse, so they could resurrect him through prayer. And, a new investigation revealing that Natalie Wood, the actress who fell off a boat and drowned 32 years ago, actually fell off a boat and drowned. I am sure that’s been on the mind of a lot of unemployed Michiganders trying to make ends meet. However, there is evidence that some of us are thinking about real things.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Referendum campaign will try to block wolf hunts

After Governor Rick Snyder recently signed legislation opening up the doors to a possible wolf hunt in the state, a referendum campaign is trying to block the move. The Detroit News reports,

A petition committee, Keep Michigan Wolves Protected, is attempting to gather 225,000 signatures in the next two and a half months for a statewide ballot question that would protect wolves from being hunted as a trophy animal.

Governor Snyder criticizes right to work as Pure Michigan ad

Governor Rick Snyder has criticized a Michigan Economic Development Corporation ad that ran in the Wall Street Journal that touts the new right to work legislation as "Pure Michigan. "Governor Snyder says he would not have singled out right-to-work. Instead, he says he hoped the ad would highlight a broad range of new economic policies," Jake Neher reports.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The United Auto Workers and other labor unions are calling on members to protest before and during Gov. Rick Snyder's third State of the State address in Lansing.

The Republican governor's speech is scheduled for Wednesday evening in the state Capitol.

The UAW and other unions are planning to be outside to protest GOP policies they say are hurting the middle class. They're especially upset about a new law ending requirements that workers pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment.