organized labor

The (F)Law of the Land — Why RTW Laws are Bad for State Economies

Michigan leaders, like moths, are mindlessly being drawn to the destructive Right-to-work flame, soon making them the 24th state to enact a bad law which every qualified economist who has seriously studied the subject finds to be destructive to a state’s economy and workforce, while being little more than a short-term political lever at best. The state will join the ranks of: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Kansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia,and Wyoming.

Newspapers across Michigan are rethinking their endorsement of the governor, and Virg Bernero is suddenly looking a lot more like “the one that got away” to the media as he is now the darling of recent interviews. Even the Free Press is crying foul about Snyder’s abrupt 180 — apparently they’re feeling duped, as they should. Two years ago my local paper similarly made a bad call by endorsing the sonorous corporate raider with the headline: Little to lose by voting for Rick Snyder for governor.”  The editor had a few choice words this past week about the Snyder bait and switch routine on Right-to-work.

The fall-out of Snyder’s double-agency will be seen and heard this Tuesday on the capitol steps in Lansing with massive peaceful protests . This time, hopefully without being pepper sprayed.

Snyder had better re-read his Sun Tzu, for he’s in for quite a political battle, and if he thinks More →

Michigan Lawmakers Offer Bunga Bunga Bill

Remember that old joke: Death or Bunga Bunga — in which a captive is asked by a tribal leader if he prefers death or bunga-bunga (group rape)? The captive bravely replies “death”, and the leader says “okay, but first…bunga bunga!”

Michigan lawmakers are the tribe, with Snyder as their leader, and SB 865 is their “bunga bunga”. Michigan residents are about to get screwed, again, by their elected leaders. This lame duck bill is a new Emergency Manager law that purports to offer “choices” to stressed municipalities and school districts.

While Michigan’s unions and voters are distracted by the Right to Work law steamrolling through the House and Senate, the new Emergency Manager law is flying-in under the radar, along with HB 6004, the Educational Achievement Authority which guts the state’s public education system.

It is not without merit to speculate that the governor, who previously showed little interest in a Right to Work initiative, now finds it to be perfect cover for the two pieces of legislation he has been advocating all along — a replacement Emergency Manager law and an expansion and codification of his Education Emergency Manager and privatization program. More →

ALEC’s Fiscal Policies Get a Failing Grade in Major Analysis

Five years ago — at the height of the disastrous Bush-era fiscal policy of spend-and-spend on war-after-war, as our nation teetered on the event horizon of the housing bubble black hole, when the media was distracted with the business of scaring people shitless about dying a hideous lonely death from the bird flu — along came Arthur Laffer and ALEC with theirRich States, Poor States  index…

Step right up folks, get a load of fiscal bullshit that will destroy your state economies right here!

…Or as Good Jobs First and The Iowa Policy Project prefer to call it: Selling Snake Oil to the States: The American Legislative Exchange Council’s Flawed Prescriptions for Prosperity“. (Nov. 2012)

Bad Medicine, indeed.

Mr. Laffer and ALEC, the legislative tee-shirt cannon of MacGuffin bills for conservative lawmakers, apparently fared rather poorly under the microscope of honest scholarly research as to the fallout of their right-wing public policies wherever tragically put in practice. Not surprising, given the Tea Party tippage of so many state legislatures and their laissez faire attitude towards gaining any useful knowledge on the subject of public sector fiscal policy– of any kind. By way of example in Michigan, representatives are limited to three 2-year terms, and if re-elected, that means terming-out after a mere six years. So, even if they possessed the will, and at least a dolphin-brained capacity to learn, which they generally don’t either, none would even find the time between campaigns — being too busy frantically whoring -up to their corporate friends with benefits.

The Selling Snake Oil to the States Report simply eviscerates the magically-conjured ALEC index More →

Poor management, not union intransigence, killed Hostess

The company had done almost nothing in the last 10 years to modernize or expand its offerings.

Hostess first entered bankruptcy in 2004, when it was known as Interstate Bakeries. During its five years in Chapter 11, the firm obtained concessions from its unions worth $110 million a year. The unions accepted layoffs that brought the workforce down to about 19,000 from more than 30,000. There were cuts in wages, pension and health benefits. The Teamsters committed to negotiations over changes in antiquated work rules. The givebacks helped reduce Hostess’ labor costs to the point where they were roughly equal  to or even lower than some of its major competitors’.

But the firm emerged from bankruptcy with more debt than when it went in — in with $575 million, out with $774 million, all secured by company assets. That’s pretty much the opposite of what’s supposed to happen in bankruptcy. By the end, there was barely a spare distributor cap in the motor pool that wasn’t mortgaged to the private equity firms and hedge funds holding the notes (and also appointing management).

As management experts such as Peter Drucker have observed, the goal of a successful business must be to find and serve customers. Do that, and the numbers take care of themselves. The Hostess approach was entirely backward — meeting the numbers became Job One, and figuring out how to grow the business became Job None.

…It failed because the people that ran it had no idea what they were doing. Every other excuse is just an attempt by the guilty to blame someone else.

There is a lot to read in this excellent expose in the Los Angeles Times,  We have only excerpted a small amount–and you should be interested in reading about the long history of mismanagement and worker concessions which simply lined the pockets of the owners.  As if people should be rewarded to doing their job so pathetically.  Please click hereto read the entire article. .

Michigan Governor Poised to Ignore the Will of Voters and Enact a New Emergency Manager Law

Governor Snyder and Republican lawmakers are working on the details of their new Emergency Manager law to replace the one Michigan voters repealed earlier this month. The draft legislation looks and smells just like Public Act 4, but contains a little window-dressing to make it seem less dictator-ish.

Stand Up for Democracy is lobbying vigorously for the governor and legislature to respect the will of the people and not pass another Emergency Manager law during the upcoming lameduck session (starts on Nov. 27th and runs one to three weeks). More →

Michigan Public Sector Unions — Live Long and Prosper, ALEC…not so much…

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy (ALEC’s cloaked Michigan contingent) has activated a top officer — Lt. Jack McHugh, 1970’s eye-wear model, doppelganger of Star Trek’s Lt. Barclay and Tea Party union-crushing machine. Steely-eyed, he’s detemined to save corporate billionaire tycoons from all those greedy working-class people and taxes of any kind. Vulcan-like in demeanor, he hides his quiet rage. Although positively apoplectic, it rarely shows behind his mask of benign doltery — trained professional that he is.

It was when Michigan’s public employees attempted a blatant “power grab” with the recently failed Proposal 2 that Lt. McHugh got all jacked about setting his phaser from “stun” to “kill” based on what he envisions as a clear new prime directive to crush the public sector’s right to collective bargaining.

In the wake of the election, McHugh urged Michigan lawmakers to “review the status in this state of collective bargaining for government employees”. He referred to unions as pitching a “ballot initiative tantrum” through the proposal. (If you’re feeling bad about my poking fun at McHugh, you can stop — he basically called all public sector employees children that need discipline, so I’m going full-on Trekkie-themed screed here….hitting him in the dilithium crystals, if you will.)

McHugh asserts that unions are “the most powerful special interest” in Michigan’s governance. What planet has he been on for the past few years? Apparently his communicator has a special filtering device that prevented all of those noxious super PAC ads from reaching him, or maybe he’s on a long-term away-mission keeping him out of range, so he’s completely ignorant of the corrosive effects of Citizens United.

How can we possibly help our distant friend? — Let’s open all hailing frequences, fire-up the universal translator for “Cogent-to-Tea Party” language conversion, and beam him the Michigan Secretary of State Campaign Finance Database . There he will find the real meaning of “special interest”…and how it relates to his buddies in the Michigan Legislature, including his friend Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, who McHugh lovingly quotes as saying this about busting public sector unions: “we need to seriously consider all options”. Although Richardville was not up for re-election this cycle, here’s 38 pages of his most recent “special interests”.

The good lieutenant wants to “make collective bargaining optional for local governments and school districts”.  Maybe if he’d just put those super-galactic-sized space goggles to good use he could do a little thoughtful research on how those government bodies actually feel about unions. He’d find out he’s got this one all wrong. In a comprehensive Michigan Public Policy Survey (October 2012) , from the U of M Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, we find a report titled “Michigan’s Local Leaders Satisfied with Union Negiotiations”, with the following data:

  • Only 27 percent of Michigan jurisdictions have union labor.
  • Of those, 78 percent recently negotiated contracts.
  • Unions made unilateral concessions 69 percent of the time.
  • 75 percent of local officials said they were satisfied with the negotiations.
  • An overwhelming 95 percent majority report an “excellent” to “fair” relationship with their unions.

Perhaps Lt. McHugh, with his ALEC and Tea Party friends, should scan for a suitable M-Class planet on which they may form a union-free, tax-free colony — because Michigan doesn’t want their time-warped fantasies inflicted on its governance.

Michigan Public Sector Employees — Live Long and Prosper!

Amy Kerr Hardin  of Democracy Tree





Obama Education Policy – RACE, RACE, RACE

While I support President Obama, I will state clearly that his education policies are terrible.  Mainly – Race to the Top.  And I have absolutely no faith in his appointed Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan.

What is Race to the Top?

Race to the Top, abbreviated R2TRTTT or RTT, is a $4.35 billion United States Department of Education contest created to spur innovation and reforms in state and local district K-12 education. It is funded by the ED Recovery Act as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and was announced by President Barack Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on July 24, 2009. States were awarded points for satisfying certain educational policies, such as performance-based standards (often referred to as an Annual professional performance for teachers and principals, complying with nationwide standards, promoting charter schools and privatization of education, and computerization.

The Main Player

Arne Duncan, the Secretary of Education, is applauded for good reason by the extreme right for his privatizing and testing frenzy creating, Race to the Top education policies.  In fact, education reform is the most bipartisan effort the current Obama administration has been able to affect.

Actually, I take that back.  The Democrats have moved to the extreme right with their current education policy.  The Republicans love it.

If you look at Arne Duncan’s biography you can see his personal history:  Harvard Graduate (sociology not education) and Chief Executive Officer of the Chicago Public Schools (CPS).

In that time, he won praise for uniting education reformers, teachers, principals and business stakeholders behind an aggressive education reform agenda that included opening more than 100 new schools, expanding after-school and summer learning programs, closing down underperforming schools, increasing early childhood and college access, dramatically boosting the caliber of teachers, and building public-private partnerships around a variety of education initiatives.

This is unusual to see.  Closing down schools as part of the democratic party plank?  And exactly what is the public-private partnership?  And where is the research that shows the caliber of teachers was boosted?  What was the research based measurement tool that showed improvement?  Hmmmm? Sketchy.

I remember now.  Thousands of teachers, students, parents, and community members protested in the streets recently in Obama’s hometown against Rahm Emmanuel because of these reforms – established and implemented first by Arne Duncan.

90% of teachers voted to strike – I hardly believe they supported Arne Duncan’s reform as an Chicago Executive or the Secretary of Education.

Tens of thousands of people were in the streets of Chicago because they KNOW and have EXPERIENCED the reforms.  Reforms implemented unsuccessfully in Chicago, that are now encouraged to go national by the current Race to the Top education policy.  The people on the ground have seen schools taken over by corporations.  The people on the ground have seen the draining of public schools funds by privatizers.

We compete to be able to do this to our public schools?  RACE, RACE, RACE.

The Grant Awarded by Competition

The Race to the Top grant requires a certain amount of reform.  The lucky applicants get to compete with all the other districts around the country in an effort to get the money.  It requires a certain amount of charters/privatization, a move toward common core standards, a large time/money commitment from the personnel who are in the race, and testing.

If you can’t understand that there is MORE to public schools than competing with all the other schools in the nation – perhaps you should stop reading at this point, because you are really NOT going to like my further arguments against this policy.


When you compete in the race – you must charter.  What is so bad about a charter?

Charter schools are primary or secondary schools that receive public money (and like other schools, may also receive private donations) but are not subject to some of the rules, regulations, and statutes that apply to other public schools. Instead, charter schools are expected to produce certain results, set forth in each school’s charter.[1] Charter schools are attended by choice.[2] Although charter schools provide an alternative to other public schools, they are part of the public education system and are not allowed to charge tuition. Where enrollment in a charter school is oversubscribed, admission is frequently allocated by lottery-based admissions systems. However, the lottery is open to all students.[3] In a 2008 survey of United States charter schools, 59% of the schools reported that they had a waiting list, averaging 198 students.[4] Some charter schools provide a curriculumthat specializes in a certain field—e.g., arts, mathematics, or vocational training. Others attempt to provide a better and more cost efficient general education than nearby non-charter public schools. Charter school students take state-mandated exams.[5]

Some charter schools are founded by teachers, parents, or activists who feel restricted by traditional public schools.[6] State-authorized charters (schools not chartered by local school districts) are often established by non-profit groupsuniversities, and some government entities.[7] Additionally, school districts sometimes permit corporations to manage chains of charter schools. The schools themselves are non-profit entities. Corporate management does not affect the status of a school. As of September 2012, in the United States, the only school system with the majority of children educated in charter schools was the New Orleans Public Schools.[8]

Cue the Republican applauding.  What better way to improve a government institution – than to remove the government?  After all. . . states, communities, and neighborhoods always do the right thing when left unregulated – right?

If you are not following . . . let me direct you to reflect on the civil rights movement.

Let’s address tax payer funds paying for private school ideas.  Yep.  This is essentially a way for groups to drain funds from public schools for their personal preferences.  It’s called “choice”.  Who could argue with choice?  Except for the fact that our COLLECTIVE funds are being used now for some interesting unregulated “choice”.

Privatizing works so well!  It’s great for social security, medicare/medicaid, and everything right?  Let’s do it to our schools!  Cue the Republican applauding.

Now the main selling point of charters .  . . research.  OK?  Where is the research?  We are turning hundreds of schools into charters because the research indicates this is an important national movement toward authentic learning correct?  WAIT!  No research?  HMMMM?

OOOOOOO  I see a little research.  But Arne Duncan is NOT going to like it.  Charters do no better than public schools?  Ouch!

Vegas alone is scheduled to create 100 more charters soon.  That way we can compete against all of America for $40 million dollars.  A $40 million dollar carrot.  It costs three carrots to compete for one carrot.  And a carrot every year to maintain the changes after the initial grant.  But I digress. . . my focus should not be about money or the poor use of it.  Let’s get back to the national movement – let’s move together America!

That brings me to standardization across the nation.  Great idea!  Right?  Cue the Republican applauding.

Common Core Standards

To compete, districts must implement common core standards.  The whole nation should get on the same page.  We all need to teach to a certain standard at a certain grade level.  Let’s race!

OK.  A few questions . . . which culture and person gets to determine the common core standard for everyone in America?  America got ahead by moving in lockstep together – that is our strength right?  We should celebrate a national movement to make sure everyone is exactly the same – learning at the same rate – learning at the same time!  America does better when we all prance in a drone like fashion to the same drum on the same day, at the same time.  Right?

OK.  How much does it cost for districts to change everything?  How much time does it take for teachers to switch their curriculums to be like everyone else in the nation?  What materials will we use?  That is a lot of expense when you calculate the time and money.  WOW – the grant is $14 million but will cost that and more to implement the changes.  The grant is gone and then who pays to maintain the systems even after the grant money is spent?  STRINGS.  Never accept the gift without knowing the strings.  Right?

Materials. . . . awwwwwww.  I see.

Textbooks corporations could really roll in the dough if they did not have to develop curriculum for individual districts.  They could sell NATIONAL systems.  Imagine the profits!  Cue the Republican applauding.

The real winner when moving to common core isn’t going to be creativity, innovation, diversity, culture, ethnicity, minorities, thinking outside the box and authentic learning.  It’s going to be the corporation that wins the right to the national contract to provide materials.  That’s what America is all about right?  We compete.  We race.  We have winners and we have losers.  It’s what makes us great.  Right?

To identify the winners and losers – let’s test.  We can tell common core is effective by testing everyone?


Let’s forget that standardized testing has been and will always be racially and culturally biased.

Let’s forget that standardized testing is a bell curve – effectively moving along a continuum that is determined by MOST students always achieving at 50% (which is considered failing) – everyone knows that adequate progress is 70%.  A bell curve slides right?  So however hard students race – 50% are ALWAYS below the curve.  So by using standardized testing as the measure – and 70% as the cut-off – public schools will never be adequate.  Our measurement tool will always fail half our students.

Let’s forget that standardized testing is based on bubble tests.  Answering A, B, C, D – has been recognized by the public in general as the most important life skill.  When I go to work everyday, I often choose C as the answer.

Let’s forget that the research has always shown that standarized testing is considerably limited in the measuring of students.

Let’s forget the extreme cost to districts and the time taken from instruction to test.  Ignore the billions of dollars lining test maker pockets.  Ignore teachers teaching to tests developed by the nations elite and people interested in money.  Someone is getting rich, but it’s not teachers or students.  Forget the cost.

OK – erase any common sense or research.  Blank minds only must proceed.

Race to the Top is based on standardized testing.  Race to the Top uses this testing to determine who fails and who succeeds. Then you can use that (statistically invalid) data to properly determine which schools to privatize at once.  You can also use that (statistically invalid) data to remove life-long teachers from their positions.  You can also use that (statistically invalid) data to track kids in a computer over time.  Because data is what is the most important indicator of winners and losers.  We will improve the life of every learner in America by numbers?

And this is better for everyone.  Right?


One fat Kindergarten teacher looks at the Race to the Top from my North Las Vegas at-risk neighborhood.  The words that come to mind are #crazytown and #insanity.  Kids need to learn to think, become good citizens, and feel safe at school.  There is no race that helps them do that.

But I will . . . if they don’t use the data to fire me.  Remember when teachers were loved and honored instead of abused and fired by a policy like Race to the Top?

If these policies continue – I predict teachers, parents, students, and community members will be in the streets marching all over the nation.  Women and men who love children and teach them to read –  are onto this scam.  We are tired of people in power seeking money from corporations and privatizers.  We are tired of people in power selling off and damaging our public schools.

We don’t believe in the race.  It’s no good.

Michigan Lawmakers Work to Re-animate Emergency Manager Monster

Governor Snyder has made no secret of his intent to legislate his way around the repeal of Public Act 4, the Emergency Manager law. In last week’s post-(mortem)-election press conference he sat po-faced claiming the voters “were confused” when they suspended the law, and he was clearly scheming to once again do away with democratic home-rule in Michigan for the sake of fiscal expediency. He plans on thwarting the will of the people, claiming he knows better than the 2.3 million voters who struck the law down.

A zombie law is in the works, but a Frankenstein back-up plan is clearly part of their strategy — putrid chunks of the Emergency Manager law cadaver are being stitched into other legislation…

The House Education Committee met today (even though the House is not currently in session) to discuss their slap-dash ersatz emergency manager-like legislation for school districts — HB -6004. In a semantic twist, they are calling their unelected supreme being a Chancellor instead of Emergency Manager.

House Bill 6004 of 2012 in a nutshell:

The legislation is intended to codify into Michigan Compiled Law the absolute power of the State Educational Achievement Authority. If you recall, over a year ago Gov. Snyder carved-out a select group of at risk schools in the Detroit Public School system and lumped them into a new hybrid school district that didn’t…well, you know…hold elections. He then quickly moved to expand his dictator district to include any school in the state that he felt needed this special brand of “leadership”. This bill would consecrate into law that expanded authority.

There’s more…

This bill also suspends collective bargaining in the bottom 5 percent of schools — an ugly provision reminiscent of the failed federal law, No Child Left Behind, in which schools that did not meet AYP (adequate yearly progress) were summarily punished regardless of important contributing factors.

A racial component, again…

Snyder’s new rule would always punish the bottom 5 percent, no matter how much progress they make, and history shows that the lowest performing schools tend to be located in poor urban areas. Just like the Emergency Manager law, HB 6004, facially-speaking, does not have a racial component, but in practice — well, that’s another matter.

This is yet one more example of the kind of crooked rough-shod governance expected from a “business leader”.

Michigan deserves better.

Amy Kerr Hardin of Democracy Tree blog



ALEC Wins and Defeats in 2012 State Races

“The Center for Media and Democracy reports several ballot measures backed by the extremist American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) went down to defeat yesterday.

Most notable was in Michigan, where voters overturned the state’s emergency manager law. Known as “financial martial law,” it allowed Gov. Rick Snyder (R) to declare a “financial emergency” in a city or school district and appoint a manager with broad powers, including the ability to fire local elected officials, break contracts, seize and sell assets, eliminate services and even eliminate whole cities or school districts without any public input.

In Minnesota, voters defeated an ALEC-designed voter suppression/ID initiative and voters in Alabama, Florida, Missouri, Montana and Wyoming defeated ALEC-inspired measures to block parts of the Affordable Care Act (ACA or “Obamacare” as the GOP has named it).

Marriage equality ballot measures won approval in Maine, Maryland and Washington State, while a ban on gay marriage was defeated in Minnesota.

Proposal 2 in Michigan, which would have made permanent collective bargaining rights in the state Constitution, failed.

In state legislative races, Democrats took back control of the Colorado House, the New Hampshire House, the New York Senate, the Maine House and Senate, the Minnesota House and Senate and the Oregon House.’

Read the full article and all the ALEC wins and defeats here

The Democratic Process in Michigan gets Astroturfed

I know astroturf when I see it…and I’ve seen plenty of it as a campaign manager and political activist. In my Michigan community alone we’ve endured multiple corporate money backed campaigns billed as “grassroots” that turned-out to be elaborate corporate schemes.

It’s easy to spot a sham.

So, my nose for these things was tweaked by a new facebook group that bills itself as “grassroots”. They are supposedly all about simply protecting Michigan’s constitution from the assault of the amendment questions on the ballot this November. On the surface, this group appears to be yet another “just say no to them all” campaign….but is it really?

They launched about a week ago on Oct 11th, instantaneously finding over 900 followers. Their page, with little substantive content, has been enthusiastically liked and commented on to a very suspicious degree ever since. Having worked on multiple such social media campaigns — I smell a rat.


Curiously, they weigh-in big time (literally) on the only non-constitutional question  on the ballot–Proposal 1, the referendum to repeal the Emergency Manager law.  They urge a  “yes” vote to keep that blatantly unconstitutional, racist and non-democratic legislative turd as law of the land, even though it has nothing to do with their supposed core mission — “protecting the constitution”. They then go on to urge “no” votes on all the constitutional amendments — cleverly Doo-wop naming themselves Yes -No-No-No-No-No.

Just take a look at their logo (size matters):

Defending a “yes” vote for the Emergency Manager law is next to impossible if a campaign organized around it on principle — how do you advocate for a wholesale attack on democratic home rule without coming across as un-American? However, if piggy-backed on the other proposals, they just might get away with sneaking their message in.
It’s hard to believe this is the work of another group called Citizens Protecting Michigan’s Constitution, who recently produced an embarrassing TV spot depicting a couple at their dining room table (channeling Harry and Louise of the Clinton healthcare plan) filling-out their absentee ballots willy-nilly voting “no” on everything without even taking the time to even read the ballot measures just because they don’t want the state constitution changed — at all. Citizens Protecting Michigan’s Constitution already has a robust facebook page — why would they need another? Besides, they pulled that moronic TV spot and have since zeroed-in on getting “no” votes on the three proposals they only cared about in the first place: 2, 3  and 4

Ballot questions in support of collective bargaining and alternative energy policy are the new targets of this “grassroots” group.

Their newly honed focus leaves other corporate interests, er…”grassroots groups” to hammer the electorate with a vote “yes” campaign on props 5 and 6, both ballot questions designed to protect the privately owned Ambassador Bridge, the primary commerce route from Detroit to Windsor, from public competition and keep the billionaire Moroun family’s fortune intact — believe it or not, these two proposals are for the sole benefit of one family who epitomize everything wrong with the privatization myth.

Well, at least we can admire the way these Tea Party-backed corporate interests have learned to coordinate their democracy-destroying efforts! Kudos for respecting each other’s turf! (assholes).

Amy Kerr Hardin at Democracy Tree blog