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.