It’s been a really tough week in Michigan, but yesterday was the worst day.
The Republicans in our state legislature passed a package of four bills designed to strip away significant rights from unionized teachers. Two of them, H.B. 4626 and 4628, were particularly egregious.
House Bill 4626 allows schools to fire teachers for almost any reason that is not arbitrary and capricious, a much lower standard than current reasonable and just cause protections.
Under House Bill 4628, public employees will lose the right to collectively bargain many critical topics, including evaluation, job placement, merit pay, and more.
The changes are the most sweeping revisions to the state’s Public Employment Relations Act since 1994, when lawmakers and then-Gov. John Engler made changes that increased penalties for striking public school employees and opened the door to greater privatization of education support professional jobs.
“This is a sad day for Michigan students,” said MEA President Iris K. Salters in a press release Thursday evening. “Whenever the working conditions of Michigan school employees are threatened, the learning conditions of students are deeply affected.
“We will do everything in our power to fight back.”
And therein lies the rub, right? Democrats and union supporters HAVE NO POWER in Michigan at the moment. Want to fight back? Get your ass working with some organization that is going to help with a massive GOTV effort in fall 2012 so we can vote out as many of these heartless, uncaring “leaders” as we can.
Another thing happened yesterday that helped grind that jackboot down onto union members’ necks: a coalition of union members and former union members began an effort to make Michigan a so-called “right to work” state. “Right to work” is a euphemism for eliminating union membership requirements for a unionized business. In other words, you can go to work for a union business, derive all the benefits from the union collective bargaining agreements, but not have to be a member of the union.
“Right to work” is more accurately called “Right to work for less” because it reduces the power unions have. This supposedly grassroots coalition gearing up to promote this effort started their drive to take Michigan down this road yesterday.
A grassroots movement to enact right-to-work laws in Michigan began a campaign Thursday that its spokespeople called a fight for free choice that would create more jobs.
The group, called Michigan Freedom to Work, could turn up the heat on an issue that has simmered in Lansing and gained momentum with a Republican-led Legislature and GOP governor.
Eight union members and former union members said at a news conference that though unions are beneficial, their lock on members who are required to pay dues discourages companies from coming to Michigan.
At the state Capitol, the coalition members were met by more than 100 union supporters — mostly members of the Michigan Education Association teachers union — who quietly handed out papers purporting to refute the right-to-work movement’s claims, such as higher wages in right-to-work states.
I won’t be surprised if we find out later that this “grassroots” group of traitorous ‘union members’ turns out to be well-funded by Americans for Prosperity or some other Koch Brothers-affiliated organization. This approach, a fake front group of supposed grassroots organizers, is totally their modus operandi and I’ll be pretty surprised if their fingerprints aren’t found on this at some point.
Ah, but that isn’t all that happened this week. As Christine at Blogging for Michigan points out, project labor agreements (PLAs) also took a hit. From a press release from the Michigan House Dems:
House Democrats lashed out against a plan passed by House Republicans on Wednesday to prohibit certain collective bargaining provisions from project labor agreements (PLA), which would effectively ban the use of PLAs in Michigan. The plan passed on a party line vote.
The plan passed by House Republicans today would prohibit local governments and other public entities from entering into a construction project if the contract contains certain collective bargaining terms that are commonly used in PLAs.
PLAs are voluntary agreements used to establish the terms and conditions of employment on construction projects that all contractors bidding on the project must abide by. They have been successful in both the public and private sector in Michigan and across the country for decades.
In addition to allowing construction owners more control over project management factors, such as workplace rules, wages, scheduling and worker training, PLAs give local governments a vital tool to hold contractors accountable for a quality finished product, which is critical for taxpayer-funded projects. PLAs also help ensure that jobs in Michigan go to Michigan workers, not undocumented workers from other countries.
Michigan is under attack. Outside of supporting the P.A. 4 referendum and the various recall efforts around the state, Michigan democrats, liberals and other progressives don’t have much say in anything that happens. We have about a year and half to get ourselves organized and all speaking the same language, pulling the rope in the same direction and focused on a single goal: vote out every Republican on the ballot. That, coupled with a devastating defeat of the Emergency Manager Law (“Financial Martial Law Act”), will help restore our voice and some of power.
If you are a union member in Michigan, you should have a P.A. 4 repeal petition with you at all times and have everyone you know signing it. If you are in an area where your state legislator is facing a recall effort, you should have one of those petitions with you, as well. And each of you should have a Snyder recall petition, too.
This is not the time for complaining and whining and hand-wringing. This is a time for ACTION!
Are you in?