Category: Your Voice Written by Jeff Bean
The middle class isn’t the enemy — it’s the engine that drives our economy, pumping money into local small businesses and creating jobs. Yet Lansing politicians and corporate special interests are eroding the middle class by passing laws that help rich CEOs and attack basic collective bargaining rights.
Michiganders already are suffering, thanks to the actions of politicians in Lansing, who over the last year have passed laws that hurt children, seniors and families while doing nothing to jump-start our economy. It was just a year ago when they cut more than $1 billion from local K-12 schools and raised taxes on senior citizens, just to pay for a $1.8 billion tax giveaway for corporate special interests like insurance companies, big banks and oil companies.
Now politicians have about 80 bills sitting in the halls of the State Capitol that take clear aim at the workplace rights of people like teachers, firefighters, and nurses. These include bills that would: impose so-called Right to Work laws for teachers, and create new restrictions on workers’ abilities to peacefully demonstrate during a labor dispute. All of these bills – and dozens more — would weaken basic protections for working men and women, and dismantle our collective bargaining rights.
Enough is enough. A coalition of middle-class families is joining together and taking a stand. Grass-roots volunteers across Michigan are gathering signatures to put a constitutional amendment on the November ballot that will enshrine into the Michigan Constitution the basic right of every worker to collective bargaining. More information about this initiative can be found at protectourjobs.com.
Collective bargaining gives people the ability to come together and negotiate fair contracts, and help protect jobs, wages, benefits and safety for all workers. Without these basic collective bargaining protections, CEOs can fire people for no reason, cut people’s wages, eliminate retirement and health care benefits, and outsource jobs to countries such as China and Mexico.
Undermining basic collective bargaining rights won’t do a thing to jump-start our state’s economy. Instead, attacking collective bargaining will further weaken the middle class, harm small businesses and send even more jobs overseas.
The politicians and CEOs who favor weakening or ending collective bargaining say that cutting people’s wages will somehow encourage more businesses to come to Michigan. That’s simply not true. What the special interests behind efforts to weaken collective bargaining really want is a license to outsource jobs — just to pad their own profits.
Without basic collective bargaining rights, big corporations will get even richer while small businesses suffer. Weakening middle-class families’ wages ultimately means fewer trips to local small businesses like hardware stores and movie theaters. Without a middle-class customer base, small businesses will close and more jobs will disappear.
Attacking collective bargaining also hurts our kids. When teachers like me and school employees are stripped of our basic rights at the workplace, the quality of education suffers. Qualified teachers leave their jobs for other careers or teaching jobs in other states. The best and brightest future teachers leave the state right after graduation. Michigan kids end up paying the price.
The middle class was created right here in Michigan — and now it’s being smashed.
It’s time that middle class people speak out to protect their wages, benefits and workplace safety from continued attacks by politicians in Lansing.
Jeff Bean is a high school teacher with Flint Community Schools, and a leader with the Protect Our Jobs campaign, an effort supported by We Are the People, a labor advocacy group.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 11 December 2012 12:14
Category: Your Voice Written by Phil Power
It is what it is.
I am referring, of course, to the political firestorm that has engulfed Michigan ever since Gov. Rick Snyder announced he would sign Right To Work (or Freedom To Work -- your word choice) when legislation ending the union shop reaches his desk.
Naturally, we all wish we could live in a more perfect world, one where the lion lies down with the lamb, where one political overreach doesn’t beget a counter-overreach, where partisan discussions aren’t always hijacked by the extremists on both sides, and where management and labor collaborate to the benefit of both.
But perfect worlds don’t exist. And the anger, mistrust and ill-will spawned by the RTW debate will now poison Michigan policy-making, maybe for years to come.
It is what it is.
Meanwhile, life will go on. And there is much important work to do to get our state back on track, to lay the groundwork for our future prosperity, to sniff out the places where things can actually get done, even amidst the current political chaos and paralysis.
For example, Michigan’s entire system of investing in human capital is in urgent need of reform and improvement.
The customers of our public, private, charter and online school industry – students, parents, employers– still want and deserve far better learning performance than they’ve been getting.
We need to stimulate a sensible discussion about what to do about our worst-performing public schools; the Education Achievement Authority bill now under consideration needs to be carefully thought through.
I worry that the kids who are being badly served by our worst schools deserve a reform package morecarefully panned than one is likely to receive in a crowded legislative lame duck session.
We also need to realize the only way to move the performance needle in our schools is to support early childhood learning programs. But the state’s pre-K program aimed at poor four-olds, the Great Start Readiness Program, gets only $109 million in state support – barely a blip compared to the $14 billion Michigan spends on our K-12 school system. It’s disgraceful that 30,000 children who are eligible for it have to be left out for lack of slots.
Many, including the business-led Children’s Leadership Council of Michigan and Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Roger Kahn (R-Saginaw) are calling for sharply increased spending here.
We need the political space and sanity to address this problem. Also, we need to do something about Michigan’s disgraceful long strangling of support for our community colleges and universities. We’re pretty close to leading the nation in reducing state support for higher education in recent years, a policy choice that has led directly to big tuition increases and skyrocketing student debt.
And amid all the chaos, we need to notice that two terrible ideas have been slipped into other bills at the eleventh hour in Lansing.
One would allow health care providers to refuse to provide services for patients when they have a “moral” objection.
The other would require women seeking insurance to purchase an additional abortion rider, something aimed directly at poor women who wish to exercise their right to end an unplanned pregnancy.
The conscientious objection bill is especially damaging and redundant. Michigan law already provides for conscientious objection to providers who don’t want to provide abortion services. But make no mistake about it. The pending bill is aimed squarely at birth control … a practice used by the vast majority of sexually active women.
Both should be stopped, removed, or (governor, are you listening?) vetoed.
While we’re at it, it’s no coincidence that at exactly the same time we are fighting over RTW, it’s becoming more and more likely that Detroit will slip into bankruptcy. Maybe Right To Work is the best thing for Michigan workers; maybe it’s the worst.
But everyone should be able to agree that it is intolerable to see our largest city going broke, captured by politicians and interest groups slow-walking towards restructuring.
Michigan needs an urban agenda for all its cities from Benton Harbor to Flint to Ecorse. We don’t have one.
Nobody can deny that the passions aroused by Right To Work are very, very strong. But Michigan still has lots of problems that won’t go away, regardless of what happens to RTW. Especially now, we need the sanity and common sense to address them.
That, too, is what it is.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 11 December 2012 12:47
Category: Your Voice Written by Phil Power
After the presidential election, the national news these days is totally dominated by the specter of the coming fiscal cliff.
So here is a Michigan Citizens’ Survival Guide to Navigating the cliff, understanding it, and hopefully surviving.
What the Fiscal Cliff Means to Michigan: Perhaps the biggest event of the decade will start to unfold at the end of this year, when the nation hits the so-called “fiscal cliff.”
The ticking time bomb started last year, with the Budget Control Act of 2011, and was designed to set in place a balance of terror facing both political parties. Unless something changes beforehand, the cliff, which we reach at midnight on Dec. 31, combines draconian spending cuts for both domestic and military programs with the end of the tax cuts enacted during the Bush administration.
According to a Bridge Magazine interview with Mitch Bean, the highly respected longtime head of the House Fiscal Agency, cuts to defense and non-defense spending in Michigan alone would total $807.1 million in 2013. Repeal of the Bush tax cuts and increased payroll tax rates would reduce total state disposable income by as much as $14 billion and cut state consumption tax collections as well.
Can Ordinary Citizens Do Anything? From our perspective out here in Michigan, it’s easy to think that ordinary citizens won’t be able to affect one whit all the tugging and hauling that will go on in Washington. But that’s not so.
The Campaign to Fix the Debt — a national nonpartisan coalition of business leaders, elected officials, community leaders, academics and individual citizens — recently announced a Michigan state chapter. The idea is to bring together concerned citizens of all stripes to call on lawmakers to address the ballooning national debt.
The Campaign to Fix the Debt is designed to focus citizen pressure on elected leaders to put our economy on a sustainable course by reforming the tax code and increasing revenues, while at the same time making smart spending cuts to programs that aren’t working or aren’t necessary. More than 300,000 Americans have already signed a Citizen’s Petition calling on our leaders to do the right thing.
For more information, and to sign up:www.fixthedebt.org.
How to Navigate the Fiscal Cliff: It won’t be easy, as the problem of what to do about our nation’s out of control spending, grotesque tax code and spiraling debt has been around for years. A recently published book, “The Price of Politics” by Bob Woodward, the author of “All The President’s Men,” describes in depressing detail how President Barack Obama and Speaker of the House John Boehner spent months last year trying to agree to a “grand bargain.”
I recommend it to anybody interested in our financial future. What the book makes clear is how very complicated these matters are and how complicated it will be to get to agreement, with all the snapping and snarling from both political partisans and the special interests who infest Washington.
Last Updated on Thursday, 29 November 2012 11:44
Category: Your Voice Written by Ron Busby, Sr.
Let's face it... Black America has too much experience living on the edge of the cliff, fiscal or otherwise, and Black business owners occupy the most precarious position in America's market place. Fortunately, President Obama's second term agenda is designed to create much-needed jobs and restore middle class security by investing in
small business, manufacturing, education, and clean energy. I can assure you, he looks forward to getting down to business and working with Congress -- in a bipartisan way -- to help the middle class.
You've heard by now that unless Congress acts to extend middle class tax cuts by the end of the year, most families will see their federal income tax bill rise by a little more than $2,000. At the same time, taxes will stay low on every business owner's first $250,000 of income. But if Congress fails to act, a small business owner making
$120,000, for example, could see up to a $4,600 tax increase.
It should be clear that we've got a little more work to do, even after the election. We've got to contact our U.S. Representatives and Senators and let them know we want them to work closely with the administration to hold the line on tax increases. And, we want them to focus sharply on ways to cut unnecessary spending from the federal budget.
The President has long supported the need for both new revenue and spending cuts to reduce the deficit in a balanced way. Fortunately for us (not everybody is as experienced as us at living on the edge!) there are encouraging signs that Republicansand Democrats in Washington are open to a bipartisan solution. That's significant.
The President's plan targets small businesses. Small businesses create two out of every three net new private sector jobs. You've heard us say that if all the nearly 1.8 million of America's sole-proprietor Black businesses could hire just one new employee, we'd just about wipe out unemployment in our communities. President Obama's work to
protect these business owners' earnings from tax increases is helping spur economic development in communities across our country and giving millions of families and individuals the opportunity to achieve the American dream. If Congress agrees - and acts - it will keep taxes low for 97% of small businesses and it will create j-o-b-s!
From the mom-and-pop storefront shops to the high-tech startups that keep America on the cutting edge, small businesses are the backbone of our economy. In his second term, the President plans to build on the 18 small business tax breaks he already signed into law, but first we need to find common ground and compromise to keep taxes from going up on 97% of small businesses on January 1, 2013.It's a no-brainer for us... Since the President's approach to the "fiscal cliff" reduces the deficit in a balanced way by $4 trillion by asking the wealthy to pay their fair share and preserves the investments we need to grow the economy, what's the problem? The $1 trillion in spending cuts President Obama has already signed should signal to both Democrats and Republicans how committed he is to a balanced approach to further reduce our deficit.
Here's your assignment: Call, write, email, tweet using #My2K, post on facebook or
send up smoke signals! Let Congress hear the voice of Black Business on the
President's tax plan.
In the Spirit of Success,
Ron Busby, Sr.
U.S. Black Chamber, Inc.
Last Updated on Friday, 30 November 2012 10:40
Category: Your Voice Written by Bill Johnson
I covered the Detroit Public Schools (DPS) as a reporter for WWJ radio in the mid-1970s. In the ensuing years I watched as the district was decentralized, recentralized and managed by various boards and appointed managers, some wielding extraordinary powers.
I have yet to see significant academic improvement, increased community involvement or abatement in the slide in student population. And no one is likely to witness positive change in these areas if the reigns of the education delivery system are returned to the Board of Education.
Back then I could have never imagined the chaos and uncertainty that has become the order of the day. The courts are involved in determining whether school czar Roy Roberts legally holds office under the old Public Act 72 following repeal by Michigan voters of Public Act 4, the state’s emergency manager law. It’s still not clear whether the school board still has control over the district’s education apparatus -- if not financial operations.
Shock waves would reverberate throughout the district if Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette were successful in removing seven of Detroit’s 11 board members. A lawsuit filed by the AG contends that only a first-class school district with 100,000 students may elect members by districts. Detroit’s student population is about half that number. In the 70s, enrollment topped 200,000.
After a cursory look at the history of DPS, it should surprise no one that the district is on a doomsday watch. Neither efficient management nor the successful education of children has been top priorities under duly elected school boards or state appointed managers.
Expectations for school reform were high when Roberts was named to the post. Unfortunately, there’s still a lot to be desired from his leadership.
Roberts has not defined or executed workable solutions to the district’s organizational, financial, administration and support systems. His good intentions notwithstanding, modifications he engineered are either bogged down in a laborious implementation process or highlighted by misdirection. Consolidating failing schools under an Education Achievement Authority, for example, is about the same as building another bureaucratic castle in the sky.
As Roberts and the school board grapple with control issues, parents are voicing their displeasure by disinvesting from the system. Neither, for example, has demonstrated much of a willingness to embrace the kind of transformation that would benefit students most.
Public opinion polls show parents want expanded school choice. That’s reflected in the fact that when a new charter school opens in the city, it’s almost immediately filled with defecting DPS students.
School boards by culture, temperament and habit are prone to incremental rather than radical change, which makes school operations under board leadership indefensible and perilous. So unless the status-quo board can demonstrate it has a plan that meets what the public demands and students’ need today, Roy Roberts, if only by default, should remain in place.
Those playing the power game should understand they have more than a parochial interest in improving schools. Detroit’s recovery depends in large part on a well-educated workforce. Parents who place a value on learning consider the quality of education in making relocation decisions. Unfortunately, DPS deficiencies rank with high-crime rates as a prime reason the city is not attractive for married couples with children.
But if Detroiters want to see a total collapse of an already academically bankrupt system, support the return of the board to power.
It may be folly to think that a broad political consensus to reconstruct Detroit’s faltering system can be found in time to prevent the inexorable implosion. Even if a school partnership with Roy Roberts and the governor is deemed unacceptable, there is no upside to a debate skewed toward the narrow goals and objectives of the board and away from what is best for educationally deprived kids.
The mission of the school district, after all, is supposed to be about educating the city’s children. Remember them?
Last Updated on Thursday, 29 November 2012 11:43
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