Right to Work in Michigan

I never would have expected it in such a strongly blue, pro-union state as Michigan, but so they did. Here is the story at the Washington Post.

As the chants of angry protesters filled the Capitol, Michigan lawmakers gave final approval Tuesday to right-to-work legislation, dealing a devastating and once-unthinkable defeat to organized labor in a state that has been a cradle of the movement for generations.

The Republican-dominated House ignored Democrats’ pleas to delay the passage and instead approved two bills with the same ruthless efficiency that the Senate showed last week. One measure dealt with private sector workers, the other with government employees. Republican Gov. Rick Snyder signed them both within hours.

“This is about freedom, fairness and equality,” House Speaker Jase Bolger said during floor debate. “These are basic American rights — rights that should unite us.”

After the vote, he said, Michigan’s future “has never been brighter, because workers are free.”

Once the laws are enacted, the state where the United Auto Workers was founded and labor has long been a political titan will join 23 others with right-to-work laws, which ban requirements that nonunion employees pay unions for negotiating contracts and other services.

Supporters say the laws give workers more choice and support economic growth, but critics insist the real intent is to weaken organized labor by encouraging workers to “freeload” by withholding money unions need to bargain effectively.

Right now Michigan’s future could hardly be dimmer. Maybe this will be the first step towards a more pro-business set of policies that will allow Michigan to flourish again. It is interesting that Michigan, a state that went heavily for Obama in the last election has a Republican governor and a State Legislature with a Republican majority in both houses. Could it be that reports of the death of the Republican Party are greatly exaggerated, especially at the state level?

Naturally the unions are fighting this tooth and nail. I would hardly expect them to do otherwise. Of course one might hope that their actions would be non violent and within the law but perhaps that is too much to expect. I suppose that there will be a repeat of the sort of mob violence we saw in Wisconsin last year.

Meanwhile schools in Michigan have had to close today because teachers have been calling in sick to protest. This is from Michigan Capitol Confidential.

At least 26,000 children will miss school today because their teachers called in sick or took a vacation day to protest proposed right-to-work legislation, which is expected to pass today.

Warren Consolidated Schools, Taylor School District and Fitzgerald Public Schools are confirmed to be closed. It is also suggested that schools in Detroit and St. Johns may be missing a significant number of teachers.

“We’ve had an excessive number of teachers call in,” Warren district spokesperson Robert Freehan said Monday afternoon. “We’re concerned about the safety and security of the students, so we’re treating it as a snow day.”

Ben Lazarus is a school board member-elect for Warren Consolidated. He believes the district, but not the teachers, made the right call.

“I think that political agendas shouldn’t take precedence over student learning,” said Lazarus. “I think the superintendent made the best decision with the facts available.”

The Warren district is the 9th-largest school district in Michigan. More than 15,000 students attend Warren Consolidated Schools. Parents will now have to scramble to find alternative care for their children because of the excessive teacher absences.

Warren Consolidated Schools is the second school district to announce closing in anticipation of a large protest in Lansing against proposed right-to-work legislation. Taylor School District Superintendent Diane Allen told WDIV that the district would be closed because so many teachers were taking sick or vacation days to attend rallies in Lansing.

Detroit Federation of Teachers president Keith Johnson anticipates “a huge crowd” in Lansing for the protest. When asked by the Free Press if any Detroit Public Schools would be closed, he said, “Hopefully.”

Some roads near the Capitol building will also be closed on Tuesday, due to anticipated protests and rallies.

At least one other district could be affected by the “sick out.” A parent in St. Johns Public Schools north of Lansing with children in the district said they were warned by their teachers that “most of them would not be at school [on Tuesday] because they were attending the protest and if enough substitutes were not found, they would close school.”

Fitzgerald Public Schools in Warren was is also closed because of staff absences. FPS Superintendent Barbara VanSweden announced on the school website, “FPS is closed on Tuesday, December 11, 2012 due to the number of staff that are absent.  The district will be closed just like a snow day.  My first priority is student safety and without an adequate number of staff, we cannot hold school.”

Freehan estimated that “several hundred” teachers called in sick or said that they would take vacation. The calls began early Monday morning, he said, and continued throughout the day. The district employs about 800 teachers, he said.

“We felt the best approach was to cancel school completely as well as extracurricular activities,” he said. “You can’t have students in school with just two staff members there.”

Lazarus believes right-to-work and other proposed educational reform bills need to be discussed, but that it would be beneficial for legislators to gather more input and information. And a “sick out” is the wrong way to go.

“I do understand that they have a political position,” Lazarus added. “[But] the first priority of a teacher should be student learning and I don’t think this adds to that.”

Just in case you thought that educating your children was their top priority. That is probably true for most individual teachers but certainly not for the teacher’s unions. Students don’t pay the union dues. Of course, it is not certain that this action will actually harm any students, at least not in the Detroit Public Schools.

In the public schools in Detroit, Mich., according to the U.S. Department of Education, only 7 percent of the eighth graders are grade-level proficient or better in reading.

Some public school teachers in the City of Detroit and around the state of Michigan are reportedly taking a vacation or a sick day today to protest right-to-work legislation likely to be approved by the state legislature. Under current law, Michigan public school teachers must pay dues to the teachers’ union. If the right-to-work law is enacted, Michigan public-school teachers will be free to join the union and pay dues to it if they wish, but they will also be free not to join the union and not to pay it dues.

Detroit public-school eighth graders do even worse in math than they do in reading, according to the Department of Education. While only 7 percent scored highly enough on the department’s National Assessment of Educational Progress test in 2011 to be rated “proficient” or better in reading, only 4 percent scored highly enough to be rated “proficient” or better in math.

I have to wonder just what they are actually doing in these schools. Not teaching children what they need to learn it would seem.

 

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4 Responses to “Right to Work in Michigan”

  1. Justin Hoffer Says:

    America needs to shorten the summer break. Numerous studies have shown that long breaks are the single largest detriment to students. America has the worst performing students in the Western world, and has the longest breaks. Canada comes in second on both. The other countries tend to rank the same way.

    • David Hoffman Says:

      You are assuming that more time in the classroom will be beneficial to the students. That may not be the case in a school system as wretched as the Detroit public school system. In that case the children might be better off not going to school at all.

      • Justin Hoffer Says:

        Not necessarily. Most countries have just as much break, they just spread them around more. Canada and several European countries have the exact same number of school days, but the Europeans spread their breaks around more and their students learn better. For every month off school, it takes students nearly that much time of review before they can start learning the next grade. Effectively, American students lose 3 months of learning, just from the summer break. Canadian students lose 2.

      • David Hoffman Says:

        You misunderstand me. You are right that American summer breaks are too long and it would be beneficial to have shorter breaks throughout the year. The problem is that in a school system in which only 7% of the students read at their grade level it doesn’t seem to matter how much time they spend in school. They aren’t learning anything.

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