A letter to EMU faculty on the growing threats to collective bargaining

I just received the following from a friend at Eastern Michigan University, and thought that you might find it of interest. It’s a letter to the faculty from EMU professor of finance Susan Moeller, who heads the university’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors.

Dear EMU Colleagues:

I am writing today to discuss the recent legislative news in Wisconsin, Ohio, and Michigan that are in the news.

In Wisconsin, the governor has proposed that public employees do not have the right to bargain collectively. This is very drastic, and has led to the protests you may have witnessed. The democrats in the Wisconsin legislature have left the state in protest.

In Ohio, Senate Bill 5 would ELIMINATE collective bargaining for public employees, including K-12 teachers AND university employees at public institutions. Despite the fact that the State of Ohio supports only 25% of public university budgets (similar to Michigan), the law would not allow public education employees to sign collective bargaining agreements. It may be the case that police and fire unions are allowed to bargain collectively, but public education employees would not be allowed to bargain collectively.

There have been hearings in Ohio on Senate Bill 5, and Rudy Fichtenbaum, our colleague from Wright State and a national AAUP leader, testified yesterday before the Ohio State legislature. His testimony (can be found here). You really should read this. It is very important, and this could be coming to Michigan. Specifically, Governor Snyder has claimed that public employees make more than twice as much as private-sector employees. There are several studies cited in the testimony which clearly refute that dubious claim.

So what is going on in Michigan?

There have been about a dozen proposed laws introduced in the Michigan House and Senate. They would do the following:

• Make Michigan a right-to-work state. Right to work is the law in 22 (mostly Southern) states, and it does not mean that a union cannot bargain collectively. It means that members cannot be forced to pay dues (no fee payers), and it would seriously weaken the ability to represent people. The result is that it is much more difficulty to properly and effectively represent people in collective bargaining.

• Allow municipalities in Michigan to create right-to-work zones. This would allow each city, town, etc. to have the governing body (not the public) vote to denote their city as a right to work zone, where right to work rules would apply.

• A bill to reduce the compensation of all state employees (including higher education employees) by 5% per year for three years. We would not be allowed to collectively bargain compensation. Our current contract would be in effect through its conclusion in 2012; after that, we would be under this proposed law.

• A bill to mandate that all state employees (including higher education employees) pay at least 25% of health care costs for family coverage, and 20% for single coverage (at EMU we currently pay about 15%). We would not be allowed to collectively bargain health care. Again, our current healthcare would be in effect through 2012, but this new proposed law, if passed, would take over at that point.

• A bill to deny unions the right for binding arbitration, which we have in our contracts to ultimately settle disputes. This would seriously weaken our ability to process grievances for faculty.

Taken together, these bills have the effect of eliminating collective bargaining in the State of Michigan for public employees – including us here at EMU.

At this point, there have been no hearings set, but we are following this very closely. You are likely aware that Governor Snyder proposed a budget yesterday that all higher education receive 15% lower in the State appropriation. Our new Michigan AAUP Executive Director, Michael Bailey, has been working with labor groups in the State as we meet to determine how to address these challenges. We are organizing how to testify on the various issues, and other possible mobilization strategies to meet these horrific challenges to our collective bargaining rights.

As we move forward, there will likely be meetings and rallies on this issue, and we will need your support. Our ability to act collectively is at stake.

We are going to have a general membership meeting after break in March to discuss these issues, and we hope to see you there.

Stay tuned.

Susan Moeller
EMU-AAUP President

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  1. TeacherPatti
    Posted February 19, 2011 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    Let’s look at wage comparisons between Southern (“right to work”) states and others. I got an email once when Florida was recruiting teachers in my subject area. While I would start at about the same salary, it would take me 20 years to get to the top of the pay scale, which was still thousands lower than pay scales here. No pensions, not sure about benefits. I love the beach, but no way in hell was I even thinking about that.

    And I hate the term “right to work”…it’s really right to have no rights at work.

    Btw, my union rep forwarded me an email saying there is an emergency rally in Lansing on Tuesday at 9am. I’m supposed to have a doctor’s appt then but I’m seriously thinking of going to this instead.

  2. TeacherPatti
    Posted February 19, 2011 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    Oh yeah and what the fuck is this horseshit about how police/fire could collectively bargain in OH, but not teachers? Could this have anything–and I am going out on a limb here–to do with the fact that historically teachers are mostly female and police/fire are mostly male?? (Yeah I know numbers have changed but not that much). They can kiss my ass

  3. Posted February 19, 2011 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

    Budget deficits are all the fault of the unions, not all the stupid tax breaks we give to anybody who lobbies for one.

  4. MI Mom
    Posted February 19, 2011 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

    Dear T.P. (TeacherPatti or the other, more common acronym – take your pick),

    It’s so reassuring to know that someone with as much self-control, ability to cogently express yourself and maturity as you, are educating our children. I have no problem with my heard-earned tax dollars going to someone like that, no sirree! God forbid you should pay even a small percentage of your own health benefits and pension like the rest of us mere mortals!

    Thank you for the fine example you are setting for our impressionable children.

    With tongue firmly in cheek,

    a Mom

  5. Nan
    Posted February 19, 2011 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

    Part of the reason Michigan is in such trouble is because the unions have taken and taken and taken. It is time for those who gained to tighten their belt like the rest of us.

    I have worked for union houses; all they ever did for me was take my money – I had NO CHOICE. I was never represented even when I needed it. Unions are out to support themselves, more money bargained means more money for them. It’s never “about the children” only their bottom line whether the taxpayers can afford it or not.

  6. dragon
    Posted February 19, 2011 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

    but I’m seriously thinking of going to this instead.

    Really. You’re going to think about saving your job. I’ll remember that when I seriously think about supporting you.
    These rick fucks don’t give a fuck about you. They don’t give a fuck about you, THEY DON’T GIVE A FUCK ABOUT YOU, they don’t care about you, at all, AT ALL, AT ALL.”

  7. TeacherPatti
    Posted February 19, 2011 at 11:17 pm | Permalink

    Dragon, when you decide to make some goddamn sense, I’ll reply.

  8. TeacherPatti
    Posted February 19, 2011 at 11:20 pm | Permalink

    And for the record, this doctor appt isn’t some run of the mill thing…it has to do when a chronic condition I have and for refills of the prescription that keeps me alive. Although I’m sure there are some out there who would be thrilled for me to skip the appt :) ;)

  9. dragon
    Posted February 19, 2011 at 11:47 pm | Permalink

    If you like waking up every day wondering if this will be the day that you’re wiped out, blow off fighting for your job and benefits. Snyder is the same snake, with a prettier mask, than the sociopaths in Wisconsin and Ohio.

    The executive budget of $46.627 billion introduced Thursday by Snyder reduces business taxes by $1.8 billion.

    Businesses are real people too. Rick Snyder.

    You seem very willing to rip off heads and shit down throats, now would be a good time to start.

  10. Bryn
    Posted February 20, 2011 at 4:18 am | Permalink

    Teacher Patti, I hope you still have that email from Florida.



    Labor organizations are really just plain old obsolete. Sorry.

  11. Bryn
    Posted February 20, 2011 at 4:20 am | Permalink

    Oh, nevermind. I see from your comments that you are just worried about the benefits and salary. And of course the beach fringe benefits.

  12. wetdolphinmissile
    Posted February 20, 2011 at 8:21 am | Permalink

    Nan you are full of shit. The unions gave and gave to the Workers! They gave us the 40 hour work week. living wages, equal pay for equal work, women blacks men all making living wages. Anyone thinking the unions are the trouble need to get their heads out of their asses and wake up and realize that are simply buying the man’s shit and they will wallow in it!
    God forbid kids coming out of college see a living wage and a pension for when they retire. NO we would rather give it all away in corporate welfare.

  13. Ez Marsay
    Posted February 20, 2011 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    Nan, Michigan Mom, and millions of other Americans unfortunaetly believe that it isn’t behemoth corporations and their representatives in government who are to blame for the primordial angst they feel and the socioeconomic debasements they suffer, but, in some wild twist of reckoning—and here God, the Easter Bunny, and UFOs come to mind—, the working class is to be punished for what ails America.

    The trouble is that angry, rightwing demagogues—and here Adolf Hitler comes to mind—have something to offer the confused, suffering, and ignorant masses: a depiction, in the mainstream media, of that very same anger they themselves feel.

    A couple houses in my neighborhood put up McCain/Palin signs in 08. I was naturally curious as to why, and in several cases, it seemed clear to me (though this of course is a snap judgment, not to be completely trusted) that the inhabitants of those homes were scared, decidedly un-rich, possibly unemployed, and in need of enlightenment, by which I mean: access to the truth. While both Palin and McCain offered encouragement to any garden-variety corporate rape victim (read: just about all of us), what they didn’t and couldn’t offer was truth.

    So it’s a failure of the Democratic bureaucracy, as I see it, that the visceral (and often enough, intellectual, as in: thought-out) rage of the average American can’t be mirrored by, at the very least, our President. What’s more, it’s quite possible that Obama himself would like to see the stability of American unions even further eroded (which is why Arne Duncan is so rabidly pro-Charter School; the good news, though, is that Charter Schools can be organized. Contact the AFT to learn how. For all your Ypsi parents who are considering sending your child to a Charter: reconsider?).

    Here we can draw inspiration from thinking about the case of Stéphan Hessel, a 94-year-old Frenchman who’s just published a book entitled _Indignez-Vous!_, or, _Get Angry!_:

    “To you who will create the twenty-first century, we say, from the bottom of our hearts,

    Organized labor, as well as scores of other local and grassroots groups, have and are actively _creating_ and defending their futures, rather than passsively watching them transpire (which means, in essence: being screwed by the machine of power).

    Chances are if you’ve got a desk job, have no union, and are making $39,000 a year, you too could be forgiven for falling prey to envy of the situation of, let’s say, an Ypsilanti Public School teacher, who might be making $65,000 a year. The trick is to try and understand what to do with your envy. Hate that teacher? Shout and blog that they should cough up that security? No, my friend. Even though your envy is totally understandalbe, the thing to do is to fight to create that kind of security for yourself.

    Let’s create our future! It’s not idealistic to think that Ypsilanti can be an American oasis: shared struggle, citizens looking out for each other, common causes, entrepreneurial progressivism. One major first step to getting there, though, is to protect our brothers and sisters who teach at EMU and in the public schools, who build transmissions in factories, all of them blessed with the ability to organize, collectively bargain, and have solidarity.

    Solidarity is a four letter word for many Americans. Until they discover that it’s precisely the same thing as the feeling that surges in their hearts when they talk to God, or share recipes with a neighbor, or are helped at the side of the road . . .

  14. Ez Marsay
    Posted February 20, 2011 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    Addendum, with apologies.

    I realize I was slightly harsh in my characterization of President Obama. A useful exercise might be to compare his motives for attaining power and working on behalf of the rich, with those of Governor Snyder:

    There is a difference. It’s very likely that Obama believed that public office wouldn’t be first and foremost a way to attain more power/influence/money, but rather, it would be the most powerful platform from which to bring about positive change in America. His record of community organizing, and his expressed opinions about racial inequality in the U.S., speak to that.

    Rick Snyder’s CV, however, unmistakably demonstrates that his career has been about just one thing: the will to power, inasmuch as that means a desire for the maximal amassing of capital. Does organized labor stand in the way of that? It does, *but only if the product you manufacture is unnecessary.* This is worth some thought . . .

  15. Glen S.
    Posted February 20, 2011 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    @ Ez Marsay.

    Wow! That was great.

    Thank you.

  16. Ez Marsay
    Posted February 20, 2011 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    More than welcome, fellow traveler.

    As paint on a wall in Paris in 1968 put it:

    “Let’s not change bosses, let’s change life.”

  17. Ms. Pacman's Lover
    Posted February 20, 2011 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”

  18. TeacherPatti
    Posted February 20, 2011 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

    Bryn, if I was just worried about pay and benefits, I would have remained an attorney.

  19. TeacherPatti
    Posted February 20, 2011 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

    Ez Marsay…right on right on right on. You hit the nail on the head re: jealousy. Not gonna lie…before I was unionized I was jealous too. I’m sure I said obnoxious things like these folks did, but I said in a post last week my suggestion to those folks is to ORGANIZE. Yes, I realize that this is easier said than done. But isn’t it slightly more proactive than sitting at your computer hating on the Ypsi schoolteacher?

  20. TeacherPatti
    Posted February 20, 2011 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

    And I need to publicly apologize to dragon…I was a complete dick (shouldn’t have read your comment to me when I was pissy…not an excuse but the reason). Thanx for not being a dick back.

  21. Ez Marsay
    Posted February 20, 2011 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

    Hi TP. Yes!

    It was a revelation to me to learn that—for example—charter school teachers can organize, via AFT. And not only that . . . U of M employees can, too. The list goes on.

    When I glance through comments fields at annarbor.com, I feel, with some modicum of certainty, that many of the hateful commenters are scared, unemployed (even when they have jobs), and, frankly, envious. If we pretend for a moment (not a huge stretch) that unions = families, while so many poorly-paid and poorly-treated American workers are treated with disrespect and admonititon rather than love and solidarity, it’s no shock to think that many of them would feel like going postal. Additionally, it threatens people to see love expressed, and the history of progressivism is nothing if not love embodied in social gesture/care.

  22. dragon
    Posted February 21, 2011 at 1:57 am | Permalink

    First they came for the Water Street Visioneers, but i didn’t speak up because its a waste of time to re-litigate that issue with morans.

    Then they came for the Rubble Developers, and i didn’t speak up because i do not want to be associated with Stewart Beal. Ever.

    Then they came for the sensitive but shady Pubatarians, and i didn’t speak up because I don’t like PBR.

    But they they came after Obnoxious Blogging Teachers and you’re damn right I spoke up, without Sassy Apathetic Teachers what is the point?

  23. Bryn
    Posted February 21, 2011 at 1:59 am | Permalink

    “before I was unionized I was jealous too.”
    You mean envious, teacher.
    They are both deadly sins, but it is important to be get the right one.

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