Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville said yesterday on the news talk program “Off the Record” that he won’t pursue so-called “Right to Work” laws for Michigan EXCEPT FOR TEACHERS. These laws, often called “Right-to-Work-for-LESS”, remove the requirement for employees at a union shop to join the union. RTWFL laws are used to reduce the power held by unions and allow people to benefit from the unions’ efforts without having to contribute to their existence.
Here’s Richardville from the Off The Record show. The segment in question starts at 23:42:
Tim Skubick: Right to work?
Richardville: Uh, not Right to Work. No, uh, I’m not a believer that that’s going to transition the economy at this point. However, I will look at some other things, maybe a subset of that. If you pay dollars into a public school system, you send your kids there, you want to participate, I don’t know that you necessarily need to be a part of a union in order to work or teach in the school district.
Skubick: So “Right to Work for Teachers”.
Richardville: I would call it the “Right to Teach” or “The Right to Participate” in the education system.
Skubick: Put that in a practical way. So that means that the MEA wouldn’t get members or how would that work?
Richardville: Well, they could still offer their membership but it, uh, it wouldn’t be a forced membership. They would have to recruit and do their work off-campus.
Detroit Free Press reporter Chris Christoff: Why would single out schools for that? Public schools?
Richardville: Well, because right now, the public schools are the one that are in dire straits and I believe that those unions and those workers that are out in the day-to-day, you know the teamsters, the engineers, the carpenters, the building trades, they’ve already had a significant effect from this economy. They’re paying more for their health care, they have less hours, they’re getting less pay. They’ve had that effect directly.
What’s happened in the public schools and, in some cases, the public government in general, is that that economic impact hasn’t hit. And so we’re making those adjustments for that reason.
Skubick: Is this an anti-MEA move?
Richardville: No, no, not at all.
Skubick: An attempt to get even?
Richardville: No, but we do have to —
Skubick: You’re not trying to take on the MEA, right?
Richardville: I don’t think taking on any union has anything to do with what our agenda is.
MIRS reporter Kathy Barks Hoffman: But the schools actually, aren’t you in a way, though, you’ve created the problem? You say the schools are in dire straits so the teachers need to, what, not pay their union dues? How does that saving schools? And, also, the governor was the one moved money out of the School Aid Fund to other things and the Legislature went along. So, I mean, it’s one thing to say that schools are in dire straits but that’s partly a decision the Legislature made.
Richardville: The dire straits wasn’t talking about just the financial piece of it. I don’t know if you’ve done the math or not before, but these “great cuts” that you’re talking about totaled about 1.8% far less than any other department we have in state government.
Barks Hoffman: It’s also about a billion dollars.
Richardville: But we’re talking about roughly 80% of the cost of the schools as being personnel so, you see, you have to do something in order to reduce that cost but maintain the quality of the teachers we have.
As Kathy Barks Hoffman points out so well, these are dire straits of the Republicans own making and they are “solving” the problem by trying to make sure that teachers, the educators of our children, suffer as much as possible to drag them down to the lowest common denominator in our tragic economic situation. The people that are educating our children, the future of our country, are, in the minds of Republicans, living high on the hog while everyone else is suffering, and they are going to do everything in their power to reverse that and inflict as much pain as they can while they are in power.
Many believe that this IS payback for the Michigan Education Association’s assistance with the successful petition drive to put the recall of House Education Committee Chairman Paul Scott on the November ballot. Here’s MEA president Steven Cook:
This is blatant abuse of legislative authority to dole out political payback. That any lawmaker would so willfully use their power to attack a group of people for exercising their constitutional rights to free speech and participation in the democratic process is unconscionable. This is just a continuation of what we’ve seen for months – political extremists and greedy corporate CEOs engaged in a power grab to squeeze even more money out of the middle class and leave workers with no job security, pensions or protections for working conditions.
Here’s more from Progress Michigan:
For an elected official, let alone a leader, to use the threat of government action to retaliate against a group of citizens over a political disagreement is repugnant and should be rejected by everyone who cares about democracy and ethics in government,” said David Holtz, Executive Director of Progress Michigan. “This is an outrageous abuse of power by Senator Richardville and a terrible civics lesson for the students of the teachers he is threatening.
Richardville is simply leading the charge of his fellow Republicans in Michigan who are out to destroy the teachers’ union and to strip away as many of their benefits as possible. Because they hold all the cards in Michigan, there’s a very good chance they will succeed.