As thousands of right-to-work protestors descend on Lansing today, state lawmakers are in the final hours of debates before deciding whether Michigan will be the 24th state to pass the highly controversial legislation.
Right-to-work laws make it illegal to require payment of union dues as a condition of employment, but workers who opt out of paying those dues would still receive all the wages and benefits of the union contract negotiated for their workplace.
It seems unfair, opponents argue, to force middle-income wageworkers to make such a decision; of course a few extra dollars seem more useful –short-term—in pockets than in union coffers. The long-term effect of right-to-work laws on unions is projected to be a crippling one, while critics of right to work laws say there is no evidence that such legislation improves the economic climate of a state.
Proponents of right-to-work laws say optional union membership make a state more welcoming to businesses. Governor Snyder said in an interview last week that Michigan should go the way of Indiana, which passed similar legislation in February. Snyder, who had said that right-to-work was not on his agenda, changed his talking points last week when the bills flew through the house in a matter of days.
“I looked at it as ‘this is becoming divisive’. I’m confident that we’re doing the right thing,” Snyder said of his decision to throw his support behind right-to-work legislation. Snyder said right-to-work would force unions to make membership more “exciting” to entice workers to pay dues instead of making it mandatory for employment.
Snyder said in an interview on WDET's Craig Fahle show that his support for right-to-work is twofold. First:
“It’s about worker choice. It’s about giving the workers a freedom to choose because this whole issue is about worker’s relationship with the union. This has nothing to do with collective bargaining and the relationship between the union and the employer. I think it’s important that people not be forced to pay to belong to an organization if they don’t see any value in that. They should have the ability to choose. I encourage unions to be proactive in presenting great value equations that get people excited to say they should join.”
Second? Better jobs, Snyder says:
“I’ve been tracking carefully what’s been going on in Indiana they passed similar legislation back in February. And if you look at the pipeline with the Indiana economic development corporation there are 90 companies that have identified themselves as having right to work as one of the considerations of coming to Indiana. Literally those companies could end up creating thousands of jobs in the state that otherwise would be there and a lot of those jobs are good jobs.”
Still, opponents of right to work laws say that all economic boosts from right to work are purely speculative citing that there is no proof that right to work packs a jump to economic growth. Snyder said right-to-work must be paired with other business-friendly legislation within states in order to be economically effective.
On the other side of the right-to-work debate stands President Obama, who was very clear at a rally in Redford yesterday that right-to-work was wrong for Michigan:
"These so-called right-to-work laws, they don't have anything to do with economics, they have everything to do with politics. What they're really talking about is giving you the right to work for less money."
Michigan could become a right to work state before the new year. A fierce legal battle is expected in the wake of the passage of the legislation.
For years Detroit has been on the brink of one financial crisis after another. While the threat of running out of cash is an ever-looming one, this time the State is not buckling under Detroit’s reluctance to change the status quo (or at least the division in leadership over how to change it).
Ultimately, the buzz about the escrowed state funds is a tiny spec on the surface of an enormous financial monster. Let’s be real: Detroit is in way deeper -*- than a $30 million bond sale installment and a few unpaid furloughs can remedy. The city council could approve Miller Canfield contracts all day long and the city would still be down the well so to speak.
At this point big chunks of city operations need to be dissovled or merged. This is serious restructuring that city leaders have been able to pull off over the past decades of post industrial depression.
The consent agreement with the State put in place last spring in lieu of an EFM just isn’t cutting it. As Detroit City Councilman Andre Spivey said on Tuesday:
“…The truth of the matter is we are 8 months away from when the consent agreement [was implemented]. We could have had a baby in this time. But nothing has been done.”
That’s why an Emergency Financial Manager (EFM) now seems inevitable. Since Public Act 4 was suspended in November, the State must revert to the old emergency manager law, Public Act 72, which limits the powers of a state-appointed appointed money czar. By now it’s not a question of “if” anymore, rather “when” and “who”.
While an emergency financial manager would not have the sweeping powers that an emergency manager would have had under PA4, he or she could still take control of financial matters [hopefully] without getting too tangled in politics.
That said, perhaps the most important question for Gov. Risk Snyder when is comes to appointing an EFM to Detroit is the “who.”
It will take an individual of tremendous resolve, intelligence, and overall chutzpah to turn around the roaring southbound train that is Detroit’s finances.
The person who is appointed to head Detroit’s money matters will have to have the resolve of a Hillary Clinton and the optimistic, fiscally conservative outlook of a Rick Snyder.
If it is as Mayor Dave Bing said last week and leading Detroit is the second hardest job in the country, the EFM position could easily line up as the third most challenging.
Aside from negotiating a cease-fire in the Middle East, perhaps negotiating with city unions for hefty pay cuts and layoffs are the most difficult negotiations to make in the nation.
Snyder should appoint as Detroit’s EFM a woman with the character and intelligence of Hillary Clinton.
Conservative Stephen Hadley, former national security adviser to President George W. Bush said recently of Clinton:
“Secretary Clinton in particular stepped forward and exerted some leadership. That's very good news, because what the Middle East has been crying for is greater U.S. leadership."
Well, what Detroit has been crying for is greater leadership, too. So if an emergency financial manager is the only way out, lets make sure that manager is thoroughly vetted and can to the dang thing.
Teach Me How To Duggan
But if Mike Duggan—or any other Detroit mayoral candidate— shares a genuine, hopeful and realistic vision to move Detroit forward through choppy economic seas, then more power to them.
It hasn’t been a week since Detroit Medical Center (DMC) head Mike Duggan threw his hat into the mayoral race and there have already been tough criticism of his status and work in Detroit.
Two-time mayoral candidate Tom Barrow charged Duggan with being an outsider and chided him for having to move into Detroit from Livonia in order to run for mayor. The Michigan Nurses Association accused him of being a “union buster” for ending an effort to unionize nurses at the DMC.
It would seem that in order to earn the title “union buster”, there have to be unions there in the first place to bust.
Duggan, like current mayor Dave Bing, is a businessman who lived outside of Detroit and moved into the city to make his mayoral run. Duggan, too, looks at running the city like running a business. He said his experience turning around the DMC when he came on board in 2003 would be similar to turning around Detroit.
As much as I don’t agree that cities should be run like businesses (a business’s bottom line is money, a city’s bottom line is people), I think Duggan deserves a fair shot.
The fact that Duggan would be the first white mayor since the 70’s should be considered a non-issue. It really doesn't matter if you’re black or white as long as you can do right by the city and do it well.
Duggan told the Detroit Free Press:
“What I’m focused on is we need to get the violence down, get the streetlights on, and get people moving into abandoned homes, not just knocking them down. That’s what I find everyone wants to talk about. And what I find is when you talk about those issues, issues like race melt away.”
While Duggan has shown successful leadership of the DMC, he still has a lot to prove. But let’s observe a bit before we start with sipping the Hater-aid.
Public-Private Partnerships? There’s a Prop. For That
With all of the ballot proposals cluttering the 2012 ballot in Michigan this year—especially Detroit—we can pick just about any hot political topic and confidently say (much like iPhone applications), “there’s a proposal for that.”
One of the hot-button issues is the public-private partnership. These gray lines between private and public dollars and control have become more common in Detroit as the city struggles to fend off bankruptcy or State management amid a financial crisis.
So as the October 1 deadline to transfer Detroit’s Department of Health and Wellness Promotion to a private nonprofit approaches, let’s dig through the pile and see which proposals apply to these.
There is a couple. One of them is Proposal 2, an amendment to the state constitution that would engrave collective bargaining rights into state law. Those way, if a union-run city department gets transferred, guess who has the legal power to stop it?
The other is Proposal P, a Detroit measure that would amend the city charter to allow elected officials and employees to work for a private contractor with the city. In light of recent city hall scandals, the charter was revised to ban such movement, mandating a one-year interim period before a private company contracted by the City can hire for contract a former city employee.
Obviously, Proposal P has its issues. It blurs the line between public and private a little more than it’s already been blurred and without the proper controls could open the floodgates to more corruption, but as the city budget crunches and shifts services into private operations, it’s needed if city employee have any chance of keeping or finding a new job with the city.
Of course, this is creating kickback from unions, but it’s happening: public funds are drying up and services crumbling and private companies and organizations are there to catch them. In a lot of ways it makes sense.
Detroit is the only city in Michigan with health and wellness services on the payroll. Come October, that will change.
"The city has to increase its efficiencies in providing these services, and we've got to do a better job of making sure our citizens get the support services they need," Bing said in a statement.
As far as proposals go, Michigan's Proposal 2 would make such public-private transfers harder on a statewide level and Detroit’s Proposal P would make such city transfers a bit smoother, at least in terms of re-hiring those displaced by the public-private switch.
After Wednesday’s Supreme Court ruling put three more hotly contested proposals on the ballot, there are nowsix proposals awaiting voter response: On Election Day voters will be asked yay or nay to: Another bridge to Canada, the emergency manager Law (PA4), stronger collective bargaining power, higher energy efficiency standards for businesses, a required supermajority vote in the House before any taxes are raised, and organizing rights for home health care workers.
Sounds like voting this year could bring on a full-fledged case of decision fatigue. What exactly does that mean?
John Tierney of The New York Times reports:
“It’s different from ordinary physical fatigue — you’re not consciously aware of being tired — but you’re low on mental energy. The more choices you have to make throughout the day, the harder each one becomes for your brain, and eventually it looks for shortcuts, usually in either of two very different ways.”
It’s these shortcuts that could become dangerous this Election Day. The shortcuts can take two forms, The Times reports: One is making hasty, reckless decisions (“Sure, I’ll vote for that. I just want to be done”), the other is making no decision at all (“I’ll leave that one blank. My brain hurts”).
The term decision fatigue a new finding involving a phenomenon called ego depletion, a term coined by social psychologist Roy Baumeister based on a Freudian idea. On Election Day voters will have to say yay or nay to: Another bridge to Canada, the emergency manager Law (PA4), Stricter Collective Bargaining agreements, higheger energy efficiency standards for businesses, a required supermajority vote in the House before any taxes are raised, home health care workers having right to organize and create registry listings.
To ease decision fatigue at the polls, stay tuned in for more Morning Coffee. We’ll go over the language of each proposal (once it’s been selected) so you can make your own—unrushed—decision before the big day.
Labor Laws Stale? Detroit Could Redefine Labor Movement
There’s a famous slogan that goes: The Labor Movement “The folks who brought you the weekend.”
Today is the day we have set aside to honor the American workforce. And since we all belong to the workforce in some way, it’s a time to honor ourselves. But before we get drunk on beer and silly-full on barbeque, let’s reflect on not just the history, but the future of labor, especially in Detroit, a city facing gigantic labor conundrums: our very own Detroit.
And it’s not just the weekend that the American labor movement created. Thanks to the workers who started organizing in the late 1800’s through the movement’s peak in the 1930’s through 1950’s, there are laws banning child labor, a mandated minimum wage, and a 40-hour week, among other protections.
Back then, organized labor was not presumed to be synonymous with unions. It was just workers banding together to demand better conditions and pay. Unions were the famous product of this, but as stated, not the only one.
In Detroit, people are divided over the importance of unions, as we know them. In the private sector, unions have diminished greatly since the peak in the 1930s and 1950’s. But in municipalities they have stayed mostly intact.
That’s a problem in cashed-depleted Detroit, where some argue that union wages and benefits are bleeding the city dry. Some would posit that if a labor union were a car, it would be an inefficient, obsolete “clunker” best scrapped for a newer design.
Unions, ironically, have been seen as big forceful machines rather than organized workers protecting their rights.
An opinion piece in the Statesman Journal this morning titled “Labor Day Not Union Day” stated:
Today, Detroit’s unions are stewing in the still before a storm. The storm being Election Day on November 6 when voters chose the fate of Public Act 4, legislation that could dissolve collective bargaining contracts and ultimately lead to the privatization of much of the municipal workforce in cities across the state, namely Detroit.
Now the question for all of us to ponder over our labor day fare is this: How can we keep fair conditions for workers while updating or removing the traditional union model?
The labor movement is still alive today, although perhaps people are more complacent now that they have weekends and minimum wage. But there’s a lot of work to be done in redefining labor in the 21st century.
The silver lining to the painful cuts Detroit workers have coming is that maybe it will force people to organize around designing a new labor model worthy of the 21st century.
Detroit is in a position to lead the nations union question, to take the hard times and demand new concepts, something that will work. Instead of complaining about cuts, and saying what doesn’t work, let’s focus on what does, what could, and what will.
One idea that comes to mind is the 30 for 40 movement geared to “reinvent” the workday. The idea is that people work 30 hours a week for 40 hours (or full time) pay. Because of the 6 hour workdays, people are more productive. At least that’s what Ron Healy, the man leading the 30 for 40 movement thinks.
An article on PBS.org highlighted this new concept and the man behind it:
"The trend in America is to work longer and longer hours. But Ron Healey, the Founder and CEO of 30/40, has convinced a growing list of skeptical CEOs that less is more. He's swayed a number of companies to switch to six-hour shifts and still pay workers for a full eight-hour day. Healey says the added expense of hiring more workers pays off because they're more productive, happier and -- most importantly -- loyal to the company."
Maybe Healy's onto something here. While it's by no means a perfect model that will solve the unions question, it's a step toward a new kind of thinking not forged in the fire of times long passed.
The Michigan Supreme Court on Friday ruled that PA4, the state’s controversial emergency manager law, be put on the November ballot for Michigan voters to decide it's fate in the November election.
But now that the law has been put to a vote of the people, it is technically not a law (quite yet) anymore until the people decide. So the emergency manager law may be suspended until November, although lawsuits are set to fly on whether it should be.
Gov. Rick Snyder has said that everything done thus far under PA4 will not suddenly be erased, but no new developments cannot be made until the November vote. Current emergency managers will have to take a demotion for a few months and go back o the the powers they had under the former emergency manager law, passed in 1990.
The 1990 law does not give emergency managers as much power. One key difference is that it forbids an E.M. to shape collective bargaining agreements.
The Detroit Free Press report quoted one lawyer, John Philo, legal director of the Sugar Law Center for Economic and Social Justice in Detroit saying:
“…Going forward, anything under the consent agreement that is ostensibly under Public Act 4 can’t be taken – anything that’s clearly a Public Act 4 power is suspended. It raises serious questions about any continuing powers for the Financial Advisory Board and some of the powers granted to the program management director.”
There are other lawyers like Donato Lorio, a lawyer for the Detroit Police Officers Association, who believe city’s recent pay and benefits cuts imposed on city labor unions are now “null and void.”
Whatever the case, Detroit is in for another round of turbulent debates and Michiganders will face a big decision come November. No more bickering from the sidelines, people get a chance to once and for all put this controversial law to rest.
But it does raise the question: If there's no strong emergency manager law, then what's in store for DPS and other cities facing financial crisis?
But I remember three years ago when Bing just got into office and he was trying to do make the cuts needed without state intervention. Remember the union contracts? I particularly remember when lawsuits were flying then namely around AFSCME Local Council 25. The city charter was again in question. Bing had terminated union contracts saying basically the same thing: If I don't there will be payless paydays, the city is broke, and so on. Only, then he estimated the city had a month or two to go before it crumbled--financially that is.
Bing is doing what he and many others feel is best for the city. Concede some power to the state so the city doesn't go bankrupt -- which would be bad for everyone involved. What has to happen is it has turned into an "us vs them" argument when now is the time people need to be working together. If Bing is right this time and the city IS running out of cash, then that is, indeed, perilous for all residents. Too bad Bing used the running out of money in x amount of time warning too many times before.
No doubt he wasn't kidding then, but now, since he is giving the city four days before bust, it's similar to what he said before to get the cuts he needed. So now that the situation has escalated and the stakes have risen, people are acting apathetic. Threats of running out of money are nothing new because the city has been running out of money for a long time. What is the case now? Is it literally a count down to chaos? Does all of Detroit's future really hung on Krystal Crittendon and the lawsuit she filed to hold up the consent agreement? The stakes are high, yes. But does that mean the drama needs to escalate, too?
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