Posts Tagged ‘unions’

Right to Work in Michigan

December 11, 2012

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.

 

More on the Recall

June 7, 2012

I don’t want to dwell too much on the recall election last Tuesday, but reading through all the commentary, it occurs to me that the biggest mistake the Democrats made was having the recall at all. I imagine that even many voters who disapproved of Scott Walker nevertheless believe that the recall was expensive and unnecessary. They might have been wiser to wait until Walker was running for reelection in 2014 and made his fight with the  public-sector unions a major issue. They might also have made it an issue this November, which might have helped Obama’s reelection effort, and the Democrats in Wisconsin generally, or perhaps not. The public was clearly on Walker’s side in the recall, and there is no reason to believe that would have been any different this November. Still, at least they would not have wasted all of that money and effort.

Walter Russel Mead, as usual, has a good analysis of the implications of this election.

The American left as we have come to know it suffered a devastating blow in Wisconsin last night. The organized heart of the left gave everything it had to the fight against Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker: heart, shoe leather, wallet and soul. The left picked this fight, on the issue and in the place of its choice; it chose to recall Walker because it believed it could win a showcase victory. That judgement was fatally flawed; it is part of a larger failure to grasp the nature of American politics and the times in which we live.

The left gave this fight everything it had. It called all the troops it could find; it raised all the money it could; it summoned the passion of its grassroots supporters, all the moral weight and momentum remaining to the American labor movement and every ounce of its strength and its will.

And it failed.

The tribes of the left danced and rallied in the streets of Madison. They knocked on doors. They staffed phone banks. They passed fliers. They organized on social media. They picketed. They sang. They brought in the celebrities and the stars; they marched seven times around the city blowing the trumpets and beating the drums. They hurled invective; they booed; they cheered.

And they failed.

For labor, this was a key test of strength and clout. Scott Walker attacked the American labor movement where it lives: the public sector unions are the only bright spot in the dismal world of modern American unions. They have the growth, they have the money, they have — or they had — the hope.

In terms of his ideas about the Blue social model and its increasing inability to provide answers to the difficulties of our postindustrial information age economy and society, the public-sector unions must surely be the bluest of the blue.

In terms of the blue social model, they are the party of the bitter clingers: the power of public sector unions among Democrats is a power that inhibits Democrats from putting forward innovative, future-facing ideas (about schools, health care, and so on) and keeps them focused firmly on the defense of the past.

Mead provides a link to a delightful piece by Katrina vanden Heuvel in the Washington Post.

Indeed, we are witnessing the first major battle between astronomical numbers of people and astronomical amounts of money.

As I write this, Walker leads in the polls, and if progressive turnout is merely ordinary, he will likely win. On the other hand, if we see the same groundswell today as on the days that led to this one, Walker can be defeated. Yet, big as this election is, it is only the first test of the progressive response to an electoral landscape overrun with money from corporations and wealthy individuals.

By attacking labor unions, flooding Wisconsin with outside cash and trying to cleanse the electorate of people who don’t look, earn or think like him, Walker has taken aim at more than a single campaign cycle or a series of policies; his real targets are the pillars of American progressivism itself. With the Romney campaign gearing up, and super PACs taking to the national airwaves, we face an unprecedented, well-funded assault on our basic values.

But progressives aren’t backing down. They’re just getting started.

Just like the South was on the path to victory after the Battle of Gettysburg, or the Germans after Stalingrad, or the Japanese after Midway. Or maybe not. They all lost the war after those setbacks. We haven’t won the war yet, but this may be the turning point.

I haven’t read anything from the Left explaining their rout yet, but I suspect that most of the commentary will resemble vanden Heuvel’s. They were beaten by money from sinister corporations and out of state wealthy individuals. Most likely the Koch brothers and Karl Rove were behind the whole thing. It couldn’t possibly be because people actually agreed with the governor that in tough times, it is not asking too much to expect even people in the public sector to tighten their belts a little.

This, of course, is a variation of the arguments in Thomas Frank’s What’s the Matter with Kansas. Those bitter clingers in flyover country should vote for the Democrats who have their best interests in mind, but instead are bamboozled into voting for Republicans, against their own interests. For people who claim to be on the side of the little people, Liberals are remarkably condescending towards anyone who doesn’t see the world their way.

Victory in Wisconsin

June 6, 2012

Very good news from Wisconsin last night. Scott walker not only won the recall vote, he won by a large enough margin so that the unions and Democrats couldn’t steal the election. Walker won 53% of the vote against his opponent Tom Barrett‘s 46%. This, despite all of the money and all of the attention they gave this race.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) survived a furious campaign seeking his recall on Tuesday, emerging as the victor in a bitter fight over state budgets and collective bargaining rights.

Walker prevailed over Democratic challenger Tom Barrett, the mayor of Milwaukee, in the closely-watched campaign that stemmed from a fight in early 2011, when Walker drove a controversial bill stripping public employee unions of their collective bargaining rights through Wisconsin’s legislature. Walker won with 53 percent of the vote while Barrett received 46 percent, a slightly larger margin than when the two ran against one another in 2010.

Walker told a raucous crowd at his election night party that his survival was an affirmation of political “courage.”

“Tonight, we tell Wisconsin, we tell our country and we tell people all across the globe that voters really do want leaders who stand up and make the tough decisions,” he said.

Walker’s win served as a symbolic victory for a generation of reform-minded conservatives; the crowd at Walker’s Waukesha election night party let out a large cheer when a local NBC affiliate showed the projection of Walker’s victory.

Conversely, the outcome in Wisconsin was a galling disappointments to Democrats and labor groups that had vowed to seek the Republican governor’s ouster over the collective bargaining law. Tens of millions of dollars flowed into the state both in support and opposition of Walker, reflecting the high stakes in the race.

Well, maybe it won’t be a day long remembered, but this recall election does have considerable significance outside the state of Wisconsin. Walker’s victory will embolden other governors top take on the public sector unions and this will be good for the Republican Party, by cutting off a major source of funding and  support for the Democrat. It will also be good for the country as a whole as governors will be able to enact badly needed fiscal reforms for their state.

I don’t know what this portends for the election in November and it would be imprudent to make any predictions at this point, but I don’t imagine that they are too happy about this in the White House. This is a major defeat for the Liberals’ agenda and they know it.

 

Liberals are such drama queens, aren’t they? No, democracy isn’t dead. This was a fair election and your side lost. I didn’t cry when Obama won.

I am sure that the unions and the Democrats will not be sore losers about this and certainly not resort to threats of violence like those awful racist teabaggers, right?

Well no. Actually they have been flooding twitter with death threats against Governor Walker, which is all of a piece with the lawless and occasionally violent manner in which they have been acting all along. If these thugs had been successful with their intimidation tactics and mobs, I wouldn’t say democracy is dead, but it might be on life support. But the good guys won this one, so I’ll be celebrating.

 

By the way, I can’t wait to read what the Democrat’s fund-raising emails say about this. We wasted millions of dollars in an ill-advised campaign to unseat Scott Walker. Please give more.


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