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GUEST POST: After Philip Levine: Who Will Speak for Workers Now? And is Anyone Listening?

Today’s guest post was written by my new friend Sally Tyler. Sally lives in Washington, DC. and is a public policy analyst for a national labor union, who spent time in Wisconsin in 2011, and who occasionally reads poetry.

She writes today about Philip Levine, a U.S. Poet Laureate who died last month. Levine is best known for his poems about laborers and the working class. As Sally writes, his loss is a loss to the labor movement as a whole.

Enjoy.
Philip Levine, U.S. Poet Laureate 2011-12, who died in February, said that he began writing poems about the people who worked alongside him on the line at Detroit auto plants in the 1950’s because they were “voiceless.” I think Levine would have probably admitted that workers were always saying something, but that not enough people bothered to listen.…

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Vast majority of Michiganders – 86% – agree that paid sick leave should be available to ALL workers

As Ramona Grigg discussed in her recent guest post “We Need Paid Sick Leave Because Workers Are Humans First“, Democrats in the Michigan legislature have introduced legislation mandating paid sick leave for all Michigan workers. As she wrote, nearly half of Michigan workers are forced to take vacation days or take unpaid leave to stay home if they are ill. That includes the people who make and serve your food in restaurants or who interact with the public in other direct ways.

Democrats recognize this as a serious problem and want to fix it.

This week, Denno Research released a poll conducted for Mothering Justice and the Economic Justice Alliance of Michigan that shows overwhelming support of this idea.…

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Wisconsin poised to become next Right to Work state, uses “Freedom to Work” meme beta tested in Michigan

With their state Senate debating so-called “Right to Work” legislation this week and their Assembly expected to take it up next week, Wisconsin is poised to become the latest Republican-controlled state to enact the anti-union law. In the weeks and months leading up to Michigan’s passage of right to work legislation, anti-union forces rebranded it as “Freedom to Work”. The term “Freedom to Work” is even used on our state government website.

As it turns out, as in so many other ways, Michigan was the testing ground for new corporatist and conservative efforts. The group Wisconsin Right to Work now has FreedomToWorkWI.com as the URL of its website.…

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GUEST POST: We Need Paid Sick Leave Because Workers Are Humans First

The following post was originally posted at Ramona’s Voices. Note that there is an ask at the end of this post: several groups are looking for stories from workers both who have and don’t have paid sick leave with their jobs. Please check out the links and share your stories.

There’s a fuss going on in Michigan over whether the state should mandate paid sick leave for all workers. It’s the Democrats who are proposing it but the Republicans dominate the government, so at this point it’s not a question of winning the issue, it’s a question of how far their bill gets before it fails.…

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New study finds that union members are happier, more satisfied people

A new study by professors from Baylor University and the University of Arkansas shows that, despite a 10% decline in union membership over the past 30 years, union members are happier and have greater satisfaction in their lives than non-union members. In a New York Times article titled “Want to Be Happy? Join a Union”, the two professors talk about their research:

[A] recent study may give some workers reason to reconsider [union membership]. For those who belong to a union, membership seems to bring a benefit that perhaps surpasses better wages or generous health insurance: higher life satisfaction.

The study authors, Patrick Flavin, an assistant professor at Baylor University, and Gregory Shufeldt, an assistant professor at the University of Arkansas, Little Rock, used data from five different years between the early 1980s and mid-2000s, conducted in the United States, of the World Values Survey, a research project focusing on people’s beliefs.

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Koch brothers on the attack against Eric Schertzing in MI-08

The uber-wealthy Koch brothers are no fans of organized labor. Nothing stands in the way of their massive accumulation of wealth quite like workers who want a fair wage, good benefits, and a safe work environment. By funding myriad different groups, they work diligently to stamp out workers’ rights wherever and however they can.

One of the groups they fund is the National Right to Work Committee (NRTWC), a front group for anti-worker corporatists working to spread right to work laws throughout the country. This Koch-funded group is now on the attack in Michigan. Their target is Eric Schertzing, Democratic candidate for Michigan’s 8th Congressional District (read my interview with Schertzing HERE.)

NRTWC sent Schertzing and his opponent Republican Mike Biship a questionnaire designed to show how pro-worker or anti-worker the two candidates are.…

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Are you better off than you were four years ago? Well, are you, really?

1980 was the first year I was able to vote in a presidential election and, with chest puffed out, off I went to the polls to vote for Jimmy Carter on November 4, 1980. It began a long, sad slide for me personally as the country was electing Republicans at a record pace, and I seemingly was voting for people at all levels of government that were not destined to be elected. I kept thinking that I was maybe not understanding politics (I now know I knew exactly what I was doing), and that the people I wanted to see elected, almost all Democrats, were good people.…

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INTERVIEW: AFL-CIO’s Liz Shuler – Has the “American Dream” become the “Impossible Dream”?

The American Dream, according to dictionary.com, is defined as: the ideals of freedom, equality, and opportunity traditionally held to be available to every American, or, a life of personal happiness and material comfort as traditionally sought by individuals in the U.S.

I might suggest that, based on generational differences, the definition of the American Dream might be different from generation to generation. Clearly, though, at least in the world I live in, one has to wonder if it’s time to redefine what the American Dream is. I’m not suggesting that the ideas set forth at dictionary.com are necessarily wrong. At the same time, however, I am concerned that the way it’s defined doesn’t exactly fit into today’s model of what our communities are, what we seek for them to be, and more importantly, how we get there.…

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Why the UAW matters and why it should matter to YOU!

In yesterday’s Detroit Free Press I read an article which I posted on Facebook.  There was an interesting story about the United Auto Workers (@UAW) growing their membership in the South. In the now infamous Volkswagen experiment, although it did not work, the failure was not as a result of the effort of the UAW and their organizers but more as a result of the efforts of those in politics who are threatened by what the UAW represents. And what do they represent? What they represent is freedom. What they represent is quality of life. What they represent is a minimum standard of living.…

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Administrative law judge rules that MEA must allow teachers to leave union at any time

After losing in court countless times, the corporatist front group Mackinac Center has finally won a round. This week, an administrative law judge ruled that the Michigan Education Association (MEA) teachers union must end its decades-old policy of having an “opt-out month” and allow its members to leave at any time. The judge’s ruling is essentially a recommendation to the the Michigan Employment Relations Council (MERC) which has the final say on the matter.

Members of the Michigan Education Association should be able to resign from the union at any time, and not just during the month of August, an administrative law judge ruled this week.…
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