teachers unions

American Federation of Teachers Michigan

Teachers and staff at Detroit’s first unionized charter school have reached a tentative collective bargaining agreement.

Teachers at Detroit’s Cesar Chavez Academy formally joined the American Federation of Teachers in February 2013.

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Michigan is now into its second year of right to Work. 

The law took effect in March 2013, making Michigan the 24th state where workers don't have to join a union as a condition of employment.

Many unions have yet to feel the impact of right to work, because they were already under contracts, or were able to sign new agreements or extend their existing ones before the law went into effect.

But Michigan's two teacher unions have certainly felt the impact of right to work. 

Doug Pratt is the Director of Member and Political Engagement for the Michigan Education Association, and he joined us on Stateside. 

*Listen to the full interview above. 

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The Michigan Court of Appeals has upheld a law that requires teachers and public school employees to pay more for their retirement health and pension benefits.

The law was challenged by teachers’ unions, which say it illegally changes public school employees’ contracts without their consent. The 2012 law requires teachers to pay more for their benefits, accept lower retirement health and pension benefits, or move into a defined contribution 401 (k) plan. The law has been a big tension point between teachers’ unions and the Snyder administration.      

Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration says it was a necessary measure to get a handle on long-term retirement costs. The administration says it reduces unfunded liabilities by $15 billion, and makes the system more stable. 

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Each week, Michigan Radio's political analyst Jack Lessenberry, and weekend host Rina Miller look back on the big news events in Michigan. You can listen to their discussion above. Below is a short summary.

Lawsuit over Taylor School District contract tossed out

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A judge in Wayne County has dismissed a lawsuit challenging a school union contract designed to skirt the Michigan’s new right-to-work law.

The Taylor School District signed a new ten-year agreement with its teachers union after the law was passed and before it went into effect. Three Taylor teachers and the conservative Mackinac Center for Public Policy sued to have the contract thrown out.

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Hearing date set for challenge to gay marriage ban

"A federal judge has set an October 1 hearing date for a challenge to Michigan’s ban on gay marriage and adoptions by same-sex couples. A lesbian couple in Hazel Park is seeking the right to marry or jointly adopt the children they are raising together. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette says the U.S. Supreme Court has allowed states to continue setting their own rules on marriage, and he is defending the Michigan Constitution," Rick Pluta reports.

Kevyn Orr and union leaders discuss pension benefits

"A group of Detroit pension and union leaders have met in the first of two closed-door meetings with the restructuring team of the city's state-appointed emergency manager. Kevyn Orr wants huge cuts in pension benefits and health insurance to avoid the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history. Some bankruptcy experts say the session could be the tipping point that leads to an unprecedented bankruptcy," the Associated Press reports.

Reinstated law prohibits schools from taking union dues

A Michigan law prohibiting schools from taking payroll deductions for union dues is back on the books. A federal judge erased an injunction on the law after an appeals court struck down her 2012 decision suspending it. The law was approved by the Republican-controlled legislature and signed by Governor Rick Snyder. The appeals court said ending payroll deductions doesn't infringe on a union's right to free speech.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

This past Thursday, the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the State of Michigan can proceed with Public Act 53, a law prohibiting school districts from deducting union dues from teachers’ paychecks.

The 2-1 ruling overturned a Detroit federal court preliminary injunction that ruled in favor of the unions. In June of 2012, U.S. District Judge Denise Page Hood issued the preliminary injunction against Public Act 53.

With the new ruling, public schools are no longer required to deduct the union dues from the paychecks of teachers and other school employees.

According to the Detroit Free Press, Thursday's opinion read: “The act merely directs one kind of public employer to use its resources for its core mission, rather than the collection of union dues.” 

www.schoolbussafety.net

This week in review, Rina Miller and Jack Lessenberry discuss a bill to expand Medicaid, how school districts will no longer collect union dues from teachers, and the financial trouble with Buena Vista and Pontiac schools.

Mumford High School is one Detroit school already under the EAA's control.
detroitk12.org

A statewide reform school district could become the largest in Michigan over the next five years.

The Education Achievement Authority of Michigan (EAA)—the district instituted in 2011 to operate the lowest performing five percent of schools in the state—may add as many as 45 schools reports Lori Higgins of the Detroit Free Press.

From the Free Press:

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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.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The teachers’ union at Muskegon Heights Public Schools has settled a lawsuit against the district. The union had alleged the district’s emergency manager was engaged in unfair labor practices.

Muskegon Heights schools' emergency manager Don Weatherspoon says allowing a charter school operator to run the public school district is the only way he can afford to keep school open next year. The deficit is more than $12 million. 

(courtesy of KQED)

DETROIT (AP) - A lawyer says a Detroit federal judge plans to block a new state law that stops school districts from deducting union dues from paychecks.

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A public school district in Oakland County imposed a ten percent pay cut on its teachers retroactive to the start of the school year.

Now it is likely the teachers will sue the district.

Teachers in the Madison Heights school district have been working without a contract for three years. In that time there’s been lots of bargaining, a fact finding mission, mediation - but to no avail.

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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."

The Republican-led legislature approved a measure that would prohibit schools from automatically deducting union dues from the paychecks of school employees last week.

Those in support of the measure say it puts more money in the pockets of employees who can then choose to write a check to their union. Opponents say it’s another attempt at union busting.

David Hecker, President of the American Federation of Teachers in Michigan spoke with Michigan Radio's Jennifer White.

DPS website

Some laid-off teachers in the Detroit Public Schools are being recalled by the district which has enrolled more students this fall than expected.

The district said Saturday in a release that principals at 34 schools have requested more teachers, and that 44 teachers were added to classrooms by October 19.

Twenty-three others have reported back to work and another 22 are expected to return. Some teachers and parents have complained of classes with more students than allowed under the teachers' union contract.

The district says it has 22 classrooms out of more than 4,000 that have exceeded student number limits.

The district ended last school year with about 74,000 students and budgeted for 66,000 this fall. Spokesman Steve Wasko said projections have been exceeded by almost 300 students.

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Eastern Michigan University's Board of Regents has approved a contract that will bring more job security and better wages to part-time faculty at Eastern Michigan University.

The regents unanimously approved the agreement on Tuesday. The contract takes effect immediately.

Part-time instructors at Eastern Michigan University are voting on whether to approve a tentative contract agreement between the union and the university. The agreement would raise the minimum salary and provide more job security and protections.

Zachary Jones is a lecturer in geography and geology at EMU. He says part-time instructors end up teaching at many different schools, and do not earn a decent living wage. Jones says this contract represents a change in attitude of how the university treats its part-time instructors, and he says it boils down to an issue of respect.

Governor Rick Snyder has some intense opposition, but it hasn’t risen to the levels of protest against his two newly elected GOP neighbors and colleagues, Governors John Kasich in Ohio and Scott Walker in Wisconsin.

And there’s a reason for that. Snyder has been both politically smarter and less ideological than those men. He says he is interested in results, not in settling scores. He’s been pushing through reforms that haven’t made public employee unions happy.

But he says he is not interested in taking away the unions’  collective bargaining rights. Some of the more conservative Republicans in the legislature are trying to push so-called “right to work” legislation, which would outlaw union shops in Michigan.

But Snyder says he has no interest in that. Which, even if you are against unions, is very smart. Union membership and clout have been declining for years. They now represent barely seven percent of workers in the private sector.

Central Michigan University says there’s been some progress involving contract talks with the faculty union this weekend. The progress has been related to non-economic issues, but there’s still a big gap having to do with pay and benefits.

Talks took place Saturday. Classes are scheduled to start Monday on the Mount Pleasant campus.

The faculty union has a meeting planned Sunday afternoon to discuss whether or not to hold a job action. A job action could include a strike over the failure to reach a labor contract. The professors have been without a contract since June.

A tenure reform plan in the state Senate has the stamp of approval from Michigan’s largest teachers’ union.

The Senate proposal is very different from a tenure reform plan approved by the state House earlier this month.

Doug Pratt is with the Michigan Education Association. He says the legislation would eliminate a state tenure commission, and instead assign arbitrators to school districts that want to dismiss tenured teachers.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The state House Education committee has approved a bill that would decertify a teachers’ union if the teachers vote to go on strike.  Individual teachers could also be fined or fired under the legislation.  It’s illegal for teachers to strike in Michigan. 

Doug Pratt is with the Michigan Education Association.    He says state lawmakers want to silence teachers.