unions

US Supreme Court

This Week in Michigan Politics, Emily Fox and Jack Lessenberry discuss a Michigan couple whose case could determine constitutional same-sex marriage rights, a challenge to Michigan’s right-to-work law, and a Republican-proposed plan for changes to the Electoral College.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Now that Republicans have strengthened their control of the Michigan Legislature, one analyst expects a fight to repeal the state’s prevailing wage law.

Republicans picked up four seats in the state House on Tuesday, expanding their majority to 63 of the 110 seats. Republicans also added a state Senate seat.The GOP will hold a 27-to-11 margin in the Senate when the next session begins in 2015.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) - The United Auto Workers union is forming a local aimed at representing the Mercedes plant in Alabama in a move mirroring its efforts at the Volkswagen plant in Tennessee.

UAW President Dennis Williams was joined by top labor officials at Mercedes parent Daimler AG and the German union IG Metall on Friday to announce the new effort to organize the plant, which is the company's only factory worldwide without labor representation.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Vice President Joe Biden repeatedly raised the issue of income inequality during a speech before the start of today’s Labor Day parade in Detroit.

Thousands of union workers packed the grounds of Old Tiger Stadium at Michigan and Trumbull to hear the Vice President speak. Biden was flanked on stage by  Teamsters President James P. Hoffa and United Auto Workers president Dennis Williams.  

Biden lashed out at corporations and the wealthy who make millions of dollars while union workers continue to struggle.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Thousands of union workers marched down Michigan Avenue today as part of Detroit’s annual Labor Day parade.

Just as the parade was getting started, a heavy downpour drenched the marchers as they stepped off from Michigan Avenue and Trumbull Street.

But the crowd’s passions remained enflamed by speeches from state union leaders, like SEIU president Marge Robinson, who attacked Governor Rick Snyder for signing Right to Work legislation.

makzhou / Flickr

Michigan State University could risk losing $500,000 if it does not stop offering courses that allegedly promote unionization.

A state Senate panel approved a measure Thursday banning courses at public universities that promote or discourage organizing efforts. It’s a reaction to MSU’s recent decision to take over some programs from the National Labor College.

Republicans say those courses violate the proposed rule.

“I believe in academic freedom, and you’re going to have difficult subjects that you’re going to cover at any university,” said state Rep. Al Pscholka, R-Stevensville, who chairs the panel that directs higher education funding in the House. 

“But this is a case where I think we’re almost encouraging labor disputes, and I don’t think that’s appropriate.”

The only Democrat that sits on the Senate panel that approved the penalty says it’s unusual for lawmakers to scrutinize university programs this intensely.

“Why just this program?” asked state Sen. Morris Hood III, D-Detroit. “And I would guess to believe that this is a hot topic item and it ruffles a lot of feathers.”

An MSU official says the university’s curriculum is balanced. He says it also offers classes that educate businesses on labor issues.

Pscholka says lawmakers will probably decide whether to move forward with the $500,000 penalty when they return from a three-week break in April.

mich.gov / Michigan Government

Unions representing Detroit city workers and retirees got a chance to question Gov. Rick Snyder under oath Tuesday about the city’s historic bankruptcy filing.

A federal judge is set to begin hearings on whether the governor and Kevyn Orr — the emergency manager he appointed — properly filed for the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder’s administration and state employee unions are arguing about who should be in the room during contract bargaining.

It’s thrown a wrench into talks on contracts that will begin in 2015 for 35,000 union-represented workers including Department of Human Services caseworkers, environmental scientists, and corrections officers.

  There’s a bumper sticker I occasionally see that says: Unions: The People Who Brought You the Weekend. For most Americans, that is certainly true. Unions created not only the weekend, but the modern middle class, something we tend to forget these days.

Yes, unions became complacent and some became corrupt. Some did not do enough for women or minorities. But all in all, they did far more good for America and the American worker than harm.

Unions are, however, widely unpopular with a sizable section of the public these days, and an even larger percentage of politicians.

The Republican majority in the Michigan legislature seems to have essentially declared war on unions, especially public sector unions. Unions have been in a long membership decline, something that may accelerate as the effects of becoming a Right-to-Work state kick in.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

This week, Rina Miller and Jack Lessenberry discuss the certification of Detroit’s mayoral primary results, the Detroit ACLU’s case against the FBI, and a union’s “fee-for-service” for employee grievances.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Common Core hearings

A state House panel began a series of hearings about the Common Core State Standards yesterday. Republican Representative Tom McMillin says the standards take away local control and were developed and adopted without public input. Committee Chair Tim Kelly says the panel should make its recommendation on Common Core in September, Michigan Public Radio's Jake Neher reports.

Legislation to limit public employee benefits

There’s legislation in Lansing that would allow local ballot drives to cap public employee benefits. Leon Drolet, head of the Michigan Taxpayers Alliance, says the ballot campaigns would act as a safeguard against cozy relationships between public employee unions and local elected officials who bargain with them. Unions say the bill is not necessary because local officials are already accountable to voters, Michigan Public Radio's Rick Pluta reports.

Reviving Battle Creek's Heritage Tower

Battle Creek city commissioners voted last night to create a special tax district in hopes of reviving an iconic downtown building. The Heritage Tower is an 82-year-old art deco building and the upper floors of the former bank building have been condemned. Ken Tsuchiyama, Battle Creek’s city manager, fears the building may have to be demolished unless the new owner can revitalize it.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A federal court challenge is blocking a group of west Michigan bakers from forming a union.

A federal court is preventing the National Labor Relations Board from certifying local union elections, because three of the board’s five members were appointed by President Obama without congressional approval.

In 2012, Panera Bread bakers voted to form a union at 6 locations along I-94 in west Michigan. The NLRB certified the vote.  But because of the legal challenge to the president’s appointees, the issue remains in limbo. 

We didn’t have an early spring this year, but it looks like an early summer. I say that because while it is still technically spring, the authorities are already engaged in what has been a late summer Michigan ritual, digging up a field to look for Jimmy Hoffa.

Usually, it strikes me as strange that this case still gets so much attention, but this year we’ve been so overwhelmed with news from Detroit that we probably need a little escape.

cncphotos / flickr

This week in Michigan politics, Christina Shockley and Jack Lessenberry discuss the issue of dredging in Michigan’s harbors, a package of bills that would make Michigan a more immigrant-friendly state, and how lawmakers have backed off from punishing colleges and municipalities for negotiating contracts before the right to work law went into effect.

Unions seek contracts ahead of new Michigan law

Feb 18, 2013
dannybirchall/flickr

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.

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.

There are five proposed constitutional amendments on the state ballot this fall, and at this point, it is impossible to predict whether any of them will pass or fail.

But I do think I know which will provoke the most spending: Proposal Two, the amendment that would make collective bargaining a state constitutional right. Unions are going to spend millions to try to get it passed. Chambers of commerce and corporate interests are likely to spend even more to try to make sure it fails. This is seen to some extent as a Battle of Stalingrad for the union movement.

(Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Time is running out for Congress to pass a new federal transportation funding bill.

The last funding bill expired in 2009.   Congress has passed a series of extensions of the old law since then.  

A coalition of Michigan environmental groups and unions say the ongoing delay is hurting state roads.

Mark Schauer is the head of the BlueGreen Alliance.   The former Michigan congressman says the state’s roads are deteriorating, in part, because Congress can’t agree on a new six year federal transportation spending plan.

“I’m sure I’m not the only one that had to replace a tire as a result of hitting a huge pothole," says Schauer.

Michigan Congressmen Dave Camp and Fred Upton are on the special House-Senate conference committee working on the transportation bill. A spokeswoman for the committee says discussions continue with hopes of reaching an agreement before the deadline at the end of next month. 

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Flint Emergency Manager Mike Brown says the city plans to work more with the state police, as well as local and federal prosecutors, to fight the city’s crime problem.

The plan calls for establishing Flint not only as a ‘safe city’ in reality, but also in people’s perception.

Using outside law enforcement help is a short term part of the plan.   Long term, Brown says the city needs to raise millions of dollars in new revenue to hire more police officers and firefighters.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Contract talks are set to resume tomorrow between the American Red Cross and its two striking unions.

The strike that started March 30 has greatly slowed blood donations for large parts of Michigan.

The American Red Cross Great Lakes Blood Services Region tries to collect 700 units of blood a day. Since the strike began, they’ve only been able to collect about 100 units a day.   

About 200 members of the Office and Professional Employees International Union  and the Teamsters went on strike more than a week ago.   The union members have been working without a contract for several years.  

The unions say the two sides have not been able to resolve safety and collective bargaining issues. The Red Cross contends health care costs are the main sticking point in the unresolved contract.

The strike has affected blood collection in 65 Michigan counties, from Kalamazoo and Lansing to the northern parts of the state.       

Red Cross blood drives in southeast Michigan are unaffected.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Four Michigan unions are asking a federal judge to strike down a new state law barring school districts from collecting union dues through payroll deduction.  The unions filed the lawsuit today.

When he signed the law, Governor Snyder said it would ensure “public transparency” and make sure public resources are spent on their intended purposes.   

Lansing’s mayor says a combination of employee furlough days and union concessions are necessary to shrink a $4.7 million budget gap next year. He laid out his budget plan to the city council last night.

Mayor Virg Bernero blames rising health insurance costs and declining property tax revenues for the budget gap.

“We need to make some serious decisions," says Brian Jeffries,  the president of the Lansing City Council,  "(The decisions are) going to be painful.   Both in terms of the number of employees…as well as loss of services…and what does that actually means for the city.”

The Lansing city council has until mid-May to come up with any changes to the mayor’s spending plan.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Once again American Red Cross workers are poised to strike in Michigan.

The strike could affect 65 counties in Michigan.

Ten days ago, two unions gave notice of their intention to strike against the American Red Cross Great Lakes Blood Services Region. It would be the third job action in the last two years.

The union members have been working without a contract for the past four years. The two sides remain far apart on several issues.

Monica Stoneking is a Red Cross spokeswoman. She says the Great Lakes Blood Services Region must collect 700 units of blood a day to meet demand.

“If we have less blood drives being held…then that’s going to further impact our blood supply… and it’s already at a low level," says Stoneking.

Stoneking says if a strike takes place they will have to import blood from other Red Cross regions to meet the need.

A union-led effort to amend the Michigan Constitution to guarantee labor bargaining rights will go before a state elections panel today.

The Protect Our Jobs campaign will ask the Board of State Canvassers to pre-approve its petition to get on the November ballot.

U of M GEO

The issue of whether University of Michigan graduate student research assistants (GSRAs) can unionize has been put to rest. Governor Rick Snyder signed a bill today saying U of M research assistants are not employees and therefore do not have the right to unionize.

The bill was introduced to the legislature by Republican Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Update 4:15 pm

The Michigan legislature has passed a bill to prohibit public schools from automatically collecting union dues from the paychecks of teachers and other employees.

Republican Representative Joe Haveman says the bill’s intent is to focus schools on educating children.

 “The focus of our school administration has to be on teaching the kids.   Let’s get out of the business of collecting bills for other people," says Haveman.

Critics complain the real intent is to weaken teachers’ unions.

Going for Broke

Mar 7, 2012

For weeks, I heard rumors that a coalition of unions were going to try to get a state constitutional amendment on the ballot to prevent the legislature from making Michigan a so-called "right-to-work" state. That is, one where workers could no longer be required to join or pay dues to a union. Well, the unions revealed their proposal yesterday.

With the passage of so called right-to-work laws in Indiana, some Michigan lawmakers are now calling for those laws in Michigan.

Lawmakers in support of right-to-work laws say they’ll make Michigan a more business friendly environment.

Opponents call it union busting and an effort to weaken unions’ political power.

Michigan Radio’s political analyst, Jack Lessenberry gives us a historical perspective.

U of M GEO

Michigan’s Attorney General Bill Schuette filed a request with the state Supreme Court to stop a hearing about whether certain graduate students at the University of Michigan can unionize.

But the hearing was held today despite the request, and is scheduled to continue tomorrow.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Vice President Joe Biden says good paying manufacturing jobs are vital to the U.S. economy and the American Dream of home ownership and upward mobility.

Biden made his comments following a tour of American Seating Company in Grand Rapids. The company has been making seats for busses, trains and stadiums in West Michigan for more than a century.

“It’s not the only source of good paying jobs but I see no way in which we can meet that American commitment to that dream unless we once again reestablish ourselves as the manufacturing hub of the world with high end products,” Biden said.

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