Michigan Right to Work

Important New Petition Drive in Michigan

A petition drive has been launched by Voters for Fair Use of Ballot Referendum, aka Voters for FUBR (pronounced foo’-bar). Bill Lucas, of Ferndale Michigan, founded the organization in late 2012. Its purpose is to prevent the legislative abuse of attaching appropriations to new laws to render them referendum-proof.

Voters for FUBR are circulating a petition with a proposal to amend the portion of Michigan’s Constitution regarding appropriations to laws, and to additionally provide for the power of referendum to amend/repeal a portion of a law.

The group hopes to gather 323,000 valid signatures to earn a spot on the 2014 ballot. The Associated Press reports that Voters for FUBR has approached larger organizations, but have yet to gain their support.

This is familiar ground for me personally, as I was one of the founding members of the coalition that successfully petitioned to repeal the Emergency Manager law. The process was difficult and it consumed a year and a half of the lives of many dedicated volunteers and activists. The coalition was key to our success. Without the support of AFSCME, Michigan Forward, Reject Emergency Managers, Rainbow PUSH, NAACP, and a number of other faith-based groups, unions and individuals across the state, we would never have earned a spot on the ballot.

As most are aware, the Michigan legislature enacted a new Emergency Manger law in their shameful lame-duck session, and attached an appropriation to it, as they did to the Right-to-Work law.  The RTW appropriation was straight-up abuse of the democratic process. Re-enacting the EM law was just plain criminal, however its appropriation was legally required because the law would have been an unfunded mandate — BUT, they could have written that into a separate tie-barred bill.

Another point lost on many was the fact that even if there had not been appropriations in either bill, they could not have been put to a referendum. They were both passed at the tail end of the legislative session, and petitioners would have had only 90 days into the next session to complete a process that takes well over a year. There are many hoops to jump through for a ballot proposal:

  1. File a Ballot Question Committee with the Secretary of State.
  2. Develop and have petition language approved by the state.
  3. Coalition build.
  4. Fundraise for legal costs and printing of the petition (a lot of money!).
  5. Recruit and train volunteer petitioners.
  6. Gather signatures.
  7. Compile and verify petitions.
  8.  Submit petitions.
  9. Campaign for the proposal itself.

In the case of the Emergency Manager law we repealed, it had been enacted at the open of the legislative session of 2011, therefore we had till 90 days after the close of the 2012  session to complete the process, about 13 months — and that was still a tight timeline!

Voters for FUBR will face other familiar challenges. Their initiative is similarly “un-sexy”, and will require more public education than a straight-up recall. People will erroneously think that the leaders of the drive are a well-funded sophisticated organization with banks of computers and trained staff — the public will get angry with the slightest little burp in the process. The mainstream media will be wishy-washy in their coverage, at times with a derisive under-current to their reporting. Right-wing organizations will put a lot of money into challenging the validity of the petitions and the ballot proposal itself.

This new ballot proposal is very important. It won’t be an easy task for Voters for FUBR to achieve, in fact, it will be monumental — but it’s worth the effort and I support them, and hope the voting public does too.

Amy Kerr Hardin from Democracy Tree

Michigan’s Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance Plummets

The Robert Woods Johnson Foundation just released their report on State-Level Trends in Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance, and it is no surprise that the Great Lakes State is trending in a very bad way.

Michigan has in-arguably been in a depression for a couple of decades — it’s economy destroyed as its manufacturing base dissolved through private-sector downsizing and outsourcing labor overseas. The state’s urban centers and infrastructure are of third-world status. It’s people are little better off.

In the year 2000, a robust 78.1 percent of Michigan workers had employer-based health insurance. That number has slipped more than any other state — now at a low of 62.9 percent. Although still above the national average of 60 percent, the trend line remains very disturbing. In that time, 1.6 million workers lost employer healthcare, and those that maintained coverage saw their premiums more than double from $6,543 annually to $13,803, with the employee share jumping from 14.6 percent to 23 percent. (Find an interactive data map here.)

Next year, an estimated 745,000 Michigan residents will qualify for subsidies to purchase healthcare under the provisions of the Affordable Care Act. Approximately another 500,000 would be eligible for coverage under an expanded Michigan Medicaid Program, but lawmakers have yet to approve the plan.

Here’s the biggest rub — all of this occurred prior to the enactment of Right-to-Work. Under this union-busting law, Michigan can expect to see even less coverage for its workforce. The state will not be able to attract the best and the brightest talent on this trend line.

Amy Kerr Hardin from Democracy Tree

Michigan House of Represenatives Perfects the Ulitimate Dick-Move

Michigan House of Represenatives Perfects the Ulitimate Dick-Move

The Michigan House of Representatives — A Bunch of Bullies:

On the heels of yesterday’s GOP House threats to drastically cut funding for the Department of Human Services, (a dick-move cold enough to warrant the use of the kelvin scale), the House Appropriations Committee came through today with their previous threats to punish good-faith negotiations and passed an omnibus education bill that is intended to penalize schools and local units of government for legally renegotiating contracts prior to Right-to-Work taking effect on March 28th of this year.

And much like yesterday, the Senate refused to participate in this reckless and childish behavior. Senator Howard Walker (R) told the Detroit Free Press “What folks are doing at the local level, that’s a big issue at the local level and I’m not sure it’s appropriate for our budget”, and another Senate Republican, Sen. John Pappageorge (R), minced no words when he said “I’m not going to punish anybody for something they did legally”.

Although no one reasonably expects the penalties to become part of the final law, the House Appropriations Chair, Rep. Joe Haverman, explained their rationale for withholding funds thusly:

“I’d like to see the language stay, but we understand that we have to negotiate with the other side,…But the main focus should be that local taxpayers, students and parents be aware of what their boards did and if they negotiated a good contract.”

Democracy Tree submits that Rep. Haverman and his colleagues do not fully understand how the democratic process works under home rule in Michigan. Those elected boards that renegotiated the contracts in good faith were chosen by voters, and it is their business alone to determine if the boards acted in the best interest of the communities they serve. The last thing voters want or need is for a bunch of whiny lawmakers going about punishing their schools and communities because a minor loophole was found in a bad law that does not even enjoy popular support.

Enough with their blustering and bullying. Michigan House — Grow up!

Amy Kerr Hardin from Democracy Tree

Michigan House to Punish Counties Over RTW

Michigan House to Punish Counties Over RTW

In a legislative frenzy only to be rivaled by the great lameduck circle-jerk of 2012, Michigan lawmakers are churning-out stop-gap bills meant to do nothing more than punish unions and employers for negotiating in good faith.

A number of laws, including Right-to-Work, are set to take effect this week. As Democracy Tree reported last month, numerous state universities were renegotiating their contracts for ten year terms in amicable agreements across the table designed to stabilize relations in the face of the pending contract wars that would otherwise ensue under RTW. Lawmakers quickly responded by entering a bill that would penalize these institutions 15 percent for bargaining in good faith prior to enactment of RTW, and the contentious chaos it will bring.

Last week, Washtenaw County, also acting in good faith, legally renegotiated their contract in an effort to avoid the predictable divisiveness of RTW. In another legislative temper tantrum, House lawmakers have again crafted a bill to similarly punish units of government for cooperating with their unions. what rtw laws actually do

Yesterday, the House General Government Appropriations Subcommittee approved a bill to withhold an un-specified amount of revenue sharing from units of government that work with their unions.

These bills make the GOP motive crystal clear:  They are intended to create tension between public sector workers and their employers. They are not the acts of statesmen — they are the petty and unprofessional misbehaviors of children dressed in suits.

Additionally, this demonstrates the woeful lack of knowledge of our elected leaders. Research found that Michigan public sector employers are happy with their union relationships, and that the premise behind RTW is utterly false.

The University of Michigan recently collaborated with Michigan Public Policy Survey late last year on an extensive research project that found that Michigan’s local units of government were satisfied with their union relationships and negotiations.

In a RTW study conducted by the Michigan State University School of Human Resources and Labor Relations, published in January 2011 by the Employment Policy Research Network, examined the economic impact in all 50 states over a three year period, comparing and contrasting RTW states to those that had strong labor standards. Among their key findings:

  • “…high wages increase aggregate demand in the state leading to increased economic activity.”
  • “Right-to-work laws and taxes seem to have no effect on economic activity. Similarly, unionization has little effect on economic activity.”
  • “…unionized firms are able to use productivity enhancements to offset any higher costs associated with collective bargaining.”
  • “…results suggest that the benefits of Right-to-work laws and tax reductions may be more political than economic.”

Michigan lawmakers should be ashamed of themselves.

Gov. Snyder has equivocated in his remarks about legislating penalties against the public sector for acting in good faith. If history teaches us anything, it is clear Michigan cannot predict what Snyder will do out of political expediency.

Amy Kerr Hardin from Democracy Tree

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Michigan’s Gov. Snyder — The One Term Nerd

images[1]Michigan’s Gov. Rick Snyder, master of the political bait-n-switch, previously claimed he didn’t intend to run for a second term, much like right-to-work wasn’t on his agenda, but now the truth is out about his 2014 ambitions. Dennis Muchmore, his chief of staff, inadvertently(?) slipped that Snyder is itching for another go-round.  Speaking at the Legislative and Public Policy Conference  for the Michigan Society of Association Executives, The Detroit Free Press reports Muchmore saying:

“Leo Fender didn’t know how to play the guitar. He invented it before he knew how to play it, Dr. Seuss invented the word ‘nerd.’ We take a certain amount of pride in that word in our office. It worked for one election. It’ll probably work for another. I’m all about getting re-elected here folks. You may not be but I am.”

One must wonder if, when he visited Detroit this week, Snyder’s motorcade carefully avoided a billboard the Michigan Democratic Party erected on I-96 near Okemos, saying “Make Snyder a One Term Nerd”. He has a history of dodging. Shortly after he signed the recently repealed Emergency Manager law in 2011, Snyder visited Cadillac for an annual breakfast event. Protesters ringed the building on three sides, but never caught sight of the governor — as he snuck in and out via the service entrance.

He certainly is scrambling to mitigate some of the electoral damage RTW did to his numbers. In an effort to regain support among women, Snyder is moderating some of his 19th century reproductive rights policies. Last December he told House members their Blue Cross Blue Shield overhaul legislation was a no-go because it contained a provision that required women seeking an abortion to obtain supplemental insurance. Yesterday, the House was given the gubernatorial thumbs-up on legislation that removed that requirement. A couple of weeks ago, Democracy Tree broke the story about House members attempted to sneak through a cleverly-worded bill that would have required transvaginal ultrasounds, and again Snyder told Jase Bolger where he could stick that idea — making it clear he would not sign it into law.

It is doubtful that newspapers will be prepared to give Snyder those glowing endorsements a second time around. The Detroit Free Press slammed the governor after RTW, claiming he had misrepresented his agenda in his “One Tough Nerd” campaign. Editorial boards are an unforgiving lot with long memories — and they don’t like being made fools of.

Amy Kerr Hardin from Democracy Tree

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Detroit Free Press Snyder Endorsement Actually Predicted How He Would Screw Michigan

That ill-advised Snyder endorsement contained a hidden gem….one the Detroit Free Press hopes readers won’t revisit.

It’s not often that a major metropolitan newspaper editorial board makes the news over an opinion piece, but that’s just what happened this past week as the Detroit Free Press backed-out of Governor Snyder’s camp like it was suddenly a circulation-killing leper colony. Their “opinion” diatribe displayed a full-blown case of the second stage of grief: Anger — after having lingered on the first stage: Denial, for nearly two years post their endorsement of the governor. Snyder’s about-face on Right-to-work spelled the end of their steamy relationship. The Free Press went well beyond dumping, they completely sanitized themselves of their affection for his dirty politics.

The editors would be well served to examine how much journalistic research was invested in identifying their candidate of choice. On the surface, without even comparing and contrasting Snyder to Virg Bernero, his Democratic foe, you’d think a responsible editorial board would at least question the wisdom of putting a known corporate raider in charge of a state that earned a solid “F” on its Corruption Risk Report Card from the State Integrity Investigation Project. Wide-open for potential corruption, Michigan ranks 44th, with all three branches of government receiving individual flunking grades. 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 →