Tuesday, November 29, 2011

New Attacks on Your Union

The legislature in Lansing has 21 days to still do damage to our union.  SB 636 and HB 4588 would bar school districts from payroll deducting union dues.  Our own superintendent has said it is a drop in the bucket as far as expense goes to do payroll deduction of dues.  MEA and local districts have been doing this for years with no complaints form school districts.  This is simply another attempt by narrow minded law makers to try and destroy public unions.  If they can get rid of MEA, they have effectively eliminated a powerful voice for educators, students, and public education in Michigan.  It would also  impact the amount of money the Democratic party receives from MEA and its members to help counter the Republican agenda.  Call Sen. Howard, Rep. foster, and Rep. MacMasters and tell them to vote NO.  it makes no economic sense to stop the practice and it denies local districts the right to bargain and have local control.

Right to Work (For Less!) is Alive and Well

The Senate is working on a bill right now that would effectively abolish public unions in this state.  what does that have to do with you?  Everything! "Right to Work" is a misleading and false title.
Fact:  Right to Work (For Less) states have a lower standard of living than free bargaining states (like Michigan)
Fact:  Right to Work (For Less) States have poorer educational systems (think Mississippi)
Fact:  Right to Work (For Less) brings down wages for everyone, both union workers and non-union.
Fact:  Businesses look for states with an educated work force, land accessibility, low construction costs, not whether it is a Right to work *(For Less) state or not
Fact:  there is no evidence that Right to Work (For Less) laws increases job growth

Need any more convincing that Right to Work (For Less) is wrong for Michigan?  Call Sen. Walker, Rep. Foster, and Rep. MacMaster and tell them to vote NO on any Right to Work (For Less) legislation that comes up. 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sen. Wittmer's Anti-Bullying Video Goes Viral

Sen. Gretchen Wittmer blasted her fellow senators for passing an anti-bullying bill that would in effect allow kids to bully other kids by allowing certain exemptions to the bill, namely if you object to someone based on your religious or moral beliefs.  Her speech in the senate has had over 300,000 hits on You Tube.


East Jordan Board Meeting Monday

Stand up for our friends in East Jordan by attending the board meeting Monday night.  There will be a "November Birthday Celebration" at 4:30pm at the middle school.  Plan on wearing your blue t-shirt and join our E.J. friends for pizza and beverage before the board meeting.  The board has proposed onerous conditions and wage cuts on the East Jordan staff. 
  • 10% cut in wages
  • reduction in health benefits
  • 1% cut in wages for every month the union fails to capitulate and sign a contract
  • 20% co-pay of insurance premiums
They are feeling very discouraged.  We need to show our support and stand with them at the board meeting.  even the CFO of E.J. iron Works has written a letter to the board urging the district to stop the games and settle.  Plan on attending Monday 5:30pm. 

Rep Greg MacMaster is at it again

Rep. Greg MacMaster thinks its a good idea if Michigan was allowed to have Right to Work (For Less) Zones.  In fact he likes the idea so much, he co-sponsored the bill.  Tell Macmaster that Right to Work is a disater for Michigan.  Don't know what Right to Work is?  Right to Work would:
  • allow individuals to receive union protections for free, while the rest of use pay dues to protect the freeloaders
  • lower wages for everyone, union or non-union workers
  • NOT create jobs!
  • allow employers to cut your wages and benefits
  • increase the number of people living below the poverty line
  • make Michigan look and act like Mississippi
Tell Rep MacMaster this is a bad idea.  Tell him to start representing all his constituents, not just wealthy conservative Republican.  Tell him to stop doing what the party leadership orders him to do and vote with the 99% in mind.  Tell him to stop drinking the kool-aid and believing the deceptive lies proponents of Right to Work tout as fact based on junk science put out by groups like the Mackinaw Center.

Sen Howard Walker Recall Needs Your Help

Do you have your 5 petition signatures?  No?  What's stopping you?  No time?  Takes 15-30 minutes.  That's a sitcom or one quarter of a football game.  Can't spare time to prevent our Senator from doing more damage to our communities, schools, and working people than he already has?  Did you know he voted to take away your democratic right to elect whomever you wish to local office?  Did you know he thinks Charter schools are doing a great job and wants to allow unlimited expansion (think one on every street corner, kinda like McDonalds).  He probably thinks it's a great idea to turn our state into a Right to Work for Less state with no unions, no minimum wage law, and certainly no rights for workers.  Still don't have time to knock on your neighbor's door and ask them to sign a petition?  What's the worst they could do to you?  Say no?  You won't know until you try.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

E.J. Teachers and Staff Appreciate Your Support

A big, big thanks to everyone who wore a t-shirt or pinned on a button today in support of the struggles of the East Jordan Education Association.  A huge shout out to BCEA members and MEA staff who organized and helped distribute the buttons and t-shirts.  The effect was immediate.  I even heard one presenter refer to the contract negotiations in the presentation.  From what I can gather, several board members seem to have it in for the teaching staff.  They now are demanding a 5.5% pay cut (and it goes up by 1% for every month they don't settle), no life insurance, no disability, and that is on top of a 20% co-pay on insurance premiums, among other things.  Even the chief financial officer of a large (very large) local business has written letter to the board of education basically saying enough of this foolishness.  I have heard comments that some teachers are in jeopardy of losing their homes if these horrific concessions are agreed to.  This has nothing to do with money.  The district has a 9% fund equity, which they refuse to spend.  Please mark your calendar for the next board meeting on Monday November 21 @ 5:30pm.  The support from all area educators was overwhelming today.  Show your support and attend the next board meeting. 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Support East Jordan Teachers and Staff

East Jordan teachers are asking we support them in their contract struggles by wearing blue to the November 2 Char-Em Area-Wide PD Day.  They will be passing out buttons to wear as well (they ask we return the buttons to designated staff when you leave the PD).  The E.J. teachers were told not to wear their solidarity t-shirts by the administrations saying it would not be appropriate and too casual for the PD day. This is despite the fact the staff has been wearing the t-shirts on Mondays and Fridays to work since early September.  Also, they are asking everyone to attend the next board meeting on Monday November 21 @ 5:30pm.  A November "Birthdays Celebration" will be held at the middle school at 4:30 prior to the board meeting.  Everyone is invited for pizza and refreshments.  Please plan to attend if at all possible.  Negotiations are not going well with the district demanding the teachers take a 3.5% pay cut, accept whatever insurance carrier the district chooses, and if you don't qualify for the insurance due to a pre-existing condition, you would be required to sign a waiver holding the district harmless.  Lets support our friends and neighbors and tell the East Jordan Board of Education Enough is Enough!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Gov. Snyder Gets Involved in Rep. Scott Recall

Governor Rick Snyder and Attorney General Bill Schutte have filed a motion with the Michigan Supreme Court asking that the court delay the recall election on November 8 against Rep. Paul Scott.  If you had any doubts about Gov. Snyder's feelings towards education, teachers, or the MEA, this should make it very clear.  He is not pro education.  He is not pro teacher and he certainly is not ambivalent towards the MEA.  He has no basis to become involved in the recall of Rep. Paul Scott.  This is pure partisan politics at its worst!  In fact, he has plans to go to Grand Blanc this November and campaign for Scott!

Even the Detroit Free Press ran an editorial condemning the gov's action.

"Clumsy and nakedly partisan hasn't been Gov. Rick Snyder's M.O. so far, but his recent decision, with Attorney General Bill Schuette, to interfere in the Nov. 8 recall election targeting Rep. Paul Scott of Grand Blanc has us reconsidering the limits of his good judgment.

Shame on Gov. Snyder and AD Bill Shuette.

What is Occupy Wall Street all about?

This is a powerful video that does a lot to explain what the Occupy Wall Street (#OWS)movement is all about.  The movement has everything to do with the privitization of education, the coordinated assault on MEA in order to eliminate it as a voice for kids and members, and make you a Right to Teach (For Less) employee.  Watch and learn.  Go to  MoveOn.org  and become a member.


Thursday, October 20, 2011

BREAKING NEWS: MI Supreme Court denies Rep. Paul Scott appeal-RECALL IS ON!!

As reported on eclectablog.com, the Michigan Supreme Court denied Rep. Paul Scott's request for a preliminary injunction which means the recall is still on.  Rep. Scott is chairman of the House Education Committee and the most anti-teacher/anti-union person in the legislature.  This is great news for those of us who have been fighting the fight and who vow to not give in to the misguided, mean spirited legislators bent on destroying our profession, our lives, and public education.  Take heart that your phone calls, e-mails, and letters have not been in vain.  The voters in Rep. Scott's district of Gand Blanc, were required to collect at least 10,000 signatures in only two weeks.  In fact, they collected over 12,000 signatures in that time.  The message is simple,  do not give up!  Do not give in! We can make a difference.  Call Sen. Walker and tell him to vote not on the SB 618-624.  Go to mea.org to find out more about these bills attacking our local schools and public education.  Tell Sen. Walker to vote NO!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Right to Work (for Less) Introduced in Senate

According to MIRS, Senate Bill 729 would have this misleading law ‘only apply to schools that have the Michigan Education Association (MEA) as the bargaining unit.’ That raises some simple questions.

“What does this have to do with helping students? With creating jobs? With helping our economy recover?

This has everything to do with destroying MEA for supporting recall efforts against House Education Chair Paul Scott (R) Grand Blanc.  The Republicans are furious that MEA got involved by donating money to the Paul Scott recall group.  Why?  Because Paul Scott is anti-education, anti-union, and proves it day in and day out by introducing legislation that hurts public education in Michigan.

Get your cell phones out, call Sen Howard Walker and tell him NO on SB 779!

There is no scientific evidence showing "Right to Work" (for Less) creates jobs, raises wages, or improves education anywhere.  In fact 7 out of 10 states with the worst economic conditions are Right to Work States! 
The fact this bill is aimed only at teachers covered by MEA contracts shows how mean-spirited Senate majority leader Randy Richardville (sponsor of the bill) and his Republican cronies are.

Call NOW!  do not allow this bill to make it out of the Senate!!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Your Lobbying Efforts Are Paying Off

Even thought the Senate voted today to lift the cap on Charter schools, the bill was amended to remove language allowing school districts to privatize teachers.  Due to your constant pressure, we were able to win a hard fought victory.
However, the battle is far from over.  Bills to expand "schools of choice", public dollars paying for private school and home school students who attend public schools and other bills in the group of bills 618-624, are still out there.  Keep the pressure on Sen. Howard WalkerTell him SB 618-624 do nothing to improve education or create jobs in Michigan!
If you have not gotten your 5 signatures on the Walker recall petitions, do it now!  Even our superintendent has written a letter to our legislators stating he is opposed to the group of bills.  What are you waiting for?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Wanted: Teachers for Hire & Charter Schools on Every Street Corner

Senate Bill 618 and 624 headed out of committe today for a full vote by the Senate.  These bills would allow districts to bid out your services to private companies i.e. teaching by lowest bidder, lift the cap on charter schools, mandate schools of choice, and divert public monies to dual enrollment and virtual education programs (cyber schools) for private and home school students.

Gary Miron, Western Michigan University education professor and national charter school expert, and Barbara Bonsignore, the Public Policy Director of Michigan AAUW,  gave testimony against lifting the cap on charter schools and if districts were allowed to outsource teachers they would become nothing but " corporate or franchise schools (think of "McDonald's School of Higher Learning").

 Sen. Pavlov (R-St Clair) and Sen. Patrick Colbeck (R-Canton) were not impressed.  Pavlov felt charter schools were accountable to the communities they were in and Colbeck did not believe "profits" were evil. 
Riiiight, and Bill Gates is the Wizard of Oz!!

Call Sen. Howard Walker (R-Traverse City) NOW!!  Tell him to vote NO on SB 618 and 624

But wait, there's more!
The House today introduced a four-bill package (HB 5023-5026) that deals with strikes, picketing, dues deduction and the hiring of scabs.
For crying out loud!!  We already have laws on the books dealing with this stuff.  Here's a novel idea, how about they deal with the 11.2% unemployment rate in our state; how about the Republicans deal with the rising poverty rate among children in Michigan.

I forgot, those are too tough to tackle.





Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Let's get the facts straight about the right to work for less.

"Proponents of a right-to-work law in Michigan suggest that it would increase job growth and incomes in the state... These assertions appear to be based, in large part, on information supplied by advocates in the National Right to Work Committee, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, and other anti-union organizations"            http://www.dailykos.com/blog/iTeachQ/ 

No surprise there.

Lets look at what the Education Policy Institute (EPI), an independent research group, says about Right to Work.

EPI released ‘RIGHT TO WORK’: The wrong answer for Michigan’s economy this week by Dr. Gordon Lafer.

http://www.epi.org/...

As Michigan seeks to recover from the Great Recession while addressing the additional problems generated by contraction in the auto industry, some advocates are promoting the idea that the state’s economy can be turned around through adoption of a “right-to-work” law.


Large sums of money have been devoted to backing so-called “right-to-work” bills in numerous state legislatures. Lobbyists for these misleadingly named laws claim that they significantly improve both job growth and the wages people earn. The evidence shows that these claims are completely without scientific foundation.

 "The most rigorous scientific analysis shows the exact opposite is true."

Rep. Mike Shirkey,  Sen. Randy Richardville, ultra-conservative Republicans , and highly organized elements of the corporate world want to experiment on teachers before they unleash it on the rest of the middle class. They want to fire you and allow private companies to take over public schools! Contact your legislator NOW!!  You know this is an insane idea when the Michgan Association of School Boards (MASB) and Michigan Association of Secondary Administrators (MASA) opposes this and other anti-education bills out there.

Contact Richardville, MacMaster, Walker, and Foster and demand they stop this idiocy NOW ! 



Thursday, September 22, 2011

Michigan Millionaire Politicians

I found this on eclectablog.com No wonder we can't get anywhere or get anything done.  It would not be in their best interest.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Rep. Al Pscholka To Strip You of Constitutional Rights

HB 4052 introduced by rep. Al Pscholka would take away your constitutional right to assembly, free speech to start.  As school employees you would be banned from
  • using school e-mail to discuss political subjects
  • prohibit you from meeting for union activities on school property
  • voting or holding elections for union offices on school property
This is just a small list of what is being proposed.  Tell your legislator this insanity must stop!  Call or write and let them know you are fed up with being the excuse for Michigan's economic problems.  Ask them "where are the jobs?"  Ask them "how does this improve education in Michigan?" 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Have You Contacted Your Legislators Yet?

MEA President Steve Cook is putting out a weekly video message on youtube.  Click on the link:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ze8MK2_PAtQ.   I also have included a new favorite blog.  Eclectablog is 100% behind educators and is doing his best to get the message out to anyone who will listen that what is going on in Lansing is insane.  His blog has been featured on The Rachel Maddow Show.  Check it out. 
And to give a little perspective as to how the rich got richer and the poor (and middle class) got poor, there is a grahic published in the New York Times.  See it at:  http://www.blogger.com/goog_503698432
Makes your blood boil, doesn't it?
Finally, if you haven't contacted your state legislator yet, what is holding you up?  If you have, kudos and thanks to you.  Keep at it and keep the pressure on. E-mails are great, phone calls (done on your own time, of course) are even better.  Don't wait, do it NOW!  See you in E.J. Monday @ 5:30pm.



Saturday, September 17, 2011

Republicans Declare War on Educators!!

Here we go folks.  Get ready to do battle.  A slew of anti-teacher legislation is on a fast track in Lansing.
  • Sen. Randy Richardville introducing Right to Teach legislation
  • House Bill 4929 passes and would prohibit school districts from deducting union dues from your paycheck
  • SB 1618 (Pavlov) if passed would privatize teachers and eliminate cap on charter schools
  • SB 593 if passed would force new teacher hires into a define benefit retirement plan
  • SB 619 expand cyber charter schools removing all restrictions and caps on the number and operation of them
  • SB 620 if passed would allow parents or teachers by a 51% vote turn their local public school into a charter school
  • Rumor is (no bill yet) there is movement afoot to eliminate health care for teacher retirees!!
And the list goes on and on.  In passing HB 4929, Rep. Haveman (R-Holland), sponsor of the bill, said the legislation isn’t an attack on teachers. “It allows them to have more money in their pockets and that’s a good thing.”
Are you kidding??  What does he think we are going to do with the money, go out and buy a car?  Following this Republican logic—does that mean the 3 percent tax on pensions and the 20 percent contribution to health care are bad things?


Then there is Sen. Randy Richardville.  He doesn't even try to hide behind the argument that a Right to Work (for less) law for teachers only would somehow be good for kids and good for reforming education.  He was on Tim Skubic's Off the Record show and stated afterwards to reporters, "I've come to a point where I've seen that I do not believe that the teachers union represents teachers well at all, nor does it represent the students. What they've been doing is working hard, twisting arms and putting us in places that we can't afford to be."
According to Gongwer News Service, he went on to call teachers "more than greedy" and said the MEA was now about "big-paid, high-honcho people. 
He has blatantly stated the MEA needs to stop the recall efforts against Republican legislators in Michigan.  The "Right to Teach" bill is political payback, pure and simple!  This is also a brutal example of an elected official abusing his position and power to advance a personal and party philosophy against a specific organization that differs in their approach to improving education in Michigan. 

SB 1618, Sen. Pavlov thinks allowing private companies to come into a school, fire all the teachers, then rehire them (at a significantly reduced salary), or simply hire all new teachers is somehow going improve the education of your students!
All of this flies in the face of what our democratically elected officials are in government to do, represent the people, period!  If you value your way of life, if you value your position to educate children, then you must let these people in Lansing know you will not stand for this any long.  Folks, they are out to destroy public education any way they can.  And if we let them win, the biggest losers will be our students!   Read more about all of this at mea.org and call, e-mail, or write Richardville, Pavlov, Sen. Walker, Rep. McMaster, and Rep. Foster.   Please "cc" or copy any correspondance you do to MEA President Steve Cook at scook@mea.org.  Seems that several Republican leaders have publically stated MEA members have not contacted them in opposition to this junk or members have stated they are in favor of what they are doing.  Lets set the record straight, send a copy of your correspondance to President Cook.







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Thursday, September 15, 2011

East Jordan Needs Our Help

East Jordan teachers are in a crisis.  The teachers have offered to make concessions similar to our contract regarding salary freezes, co-pays on insurance, among others.  The board has rejected their offers and said there proposals did not "offer enough" in cuts and/or savings.  If it wasn't enough, then what is?  So far the district won't say.  However, they did hire an attorney at $30,000 dollars a throw to negotiate for the district.
We need to attend the board meeting Monday, September 19 in East Jordan at 5:30pm in the high school.  I suspect many of you know people who work at East Jordan schools, have friends there, or know employees at Boyne City schools who have spouses working there.  It's time to support our friends and neighbors in need!  If you can't make it Monday night, call the board office at 536-3131 and ask for the time, meeting place, and directions on how to get there.  Even if you plan to go, call anyway.  The idea is make them aware that people in the surrounding districts care about what happens in E.J., are watching, and getting involved.  If we were in the same situation (remember two years ago?) I would like to think East Jordan staff would come and support us.  Remember, attend and call 536-3131 for info on the meeting.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Critical vote... Your presence in vital

We will be meeting Thursday, June 30 @ 5pm in Carol Johnston's room.  Hopefully, we will have a contract to ratify.  If there are any changes, your negotiating team will contact you.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Capital update: Senate considering anti-collective bargaining bills

A four-bill package that would undo collective bargaining and tenure laws remains in the state Senate, where MEA leaders and staff are working behind-the-scenes to explain the real impact of the legislation.

House Bills 4625-4628 would allow districts to fire experienced teachers and other employees for almost any reason, even if it is has nothing to do with job performance. If you don't know yet how House Bills 4625-4628 would impact you, check out our new Q-and-A.

The state House approved the bills last week and proponents are pushing for a speedy vote in the Senate. The Senate Education Committee will meet at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday to take up the bills.

We need you to act NOW to help stop these bills. Contact your state senator and urge him/her to vote NO. The legislative assault will not end unless you make your voice heard!



Reminder: Many school districts have policies about communicating with legislators on school time and equipment, so wait until you are away from school to contact your legislators or use your personal cell phone when you are off duty.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

House advances anti-tenure bills

The GOP-led state House today advanced a four-bill package to overhaul tenure and collective bargaining laws.
The legislation -- House Bills 4625, 4626, 4627, and 4628 -- would, in fact, dismantle tenure AND collective bargaining of most subjects currently decided at the local bargaining table, including placement of employees, evaluation systems, discharge/discipline policies, and more.
The state House today advanced them to the order of third reading. We expect the House to take a final vote on the bills tomorrow! Contact your state representative today. Tell him/her to vote no on House Bills 4625, 4626, 4627, and 4628.

MEA strongly opposes these bills. MEA is working with lawmakers on changes to these bills that threaten your tenure and bargaining rights. We support changes to the tenure process, including addressing administrator training and reducing the time and cost of tenure cases.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Your Calls Have Delayed the Vote

The state House is expected to vote as early as Wednesday on a package of bills that would eliminate teacher tenure and ban all school employees from bargaining about a broad range of subjects related to their working environments and their students' learning conditions.
Late Monday, we learned that a vote could come this week on the bills -- House Bills 4625, 4626, 4627, and 4628. MEA members, who responded with hundreds of phone calls and e-mails to legislators, helped stall the vote, but action is still imminent.

Among many other provisions, this legislation would increase the probationary period to five years, allow tenured teachers to be moved back to probation after evaluation, remove reasonable and just cause protections, eliminate seniority-based placements. The bills also extend far beyond tenure, banning collective bargaining of evaluation systems, discharge/discipline policies, and more.

We need you to act NOW to stop these bills. Contact your state representative and urge him/her to vote NO. The legislative assault will not end unless you make your voice heard immediately!

Reminder: Many school districts have policies about communicating with legislators on school time and equipment, so wait until you are away from school to contact your legislators or use your personal cell phone when you are off duty.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Anti-tenure bills would kill collective bargaining, too

A four-bill package pending in the state House to overhaul tenure would actually reach far beyond what some say is the real problem – the time and money it takes to discharge a teacher with tenure.

The legislation – House Bills 4325, 4326, 4327, and 4328 – would, in fact, dismantle tenure AND collective bargaining of most subjects currently decided at the local bargaining table, including placement of employees, evaluation systems, discharge/discipline policies, and more. In an ironic turn, the legislation is backed by Republicans, who usually claim to oppose such intrusions on local control by state government.

Under this legislation, it would be possible for a school district to fire an unmarried, pregnant teacher. Or a tenured teacher who happens to be gay. Or an unpopular employee disliked by the principal. Or veteran teachers who can be replaced with cheaper, less experienced alternatives.

Read more

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Senate runs over school employees with HB 4152 and SB 7

The Senate today approved historic changes to collective bargaining and public employee compensation, stripping locally elected officials of the right to make important decisions.

•The Michigan Senate voted 21-17 on House Bill 4152, a bill to prohibit step wage increases for public employees when a contract expires and before a new contract is negotiated. The bill requires employees to pay increased costs of maintaining benefits after contract expiration AND would prohibit employers and employees from bargaining retroactive wage increases or benefit reimbursement. House Bill 4152 already passed the House – and, today, the House enrolled the bill, which now goes to Gov. Rick Snyder, who is expected to sign it into law. Contact Snyder NOW and ask him to veto House Bill 4152.


•The Senate voted 25-13 on Senate Bill 7, which requires employees to pay at least 20 percent of the cost of health care. This bill, which now heads to the House, allows local municipalities to opt out of requiring the employee contribution but there is no similar opt-out for school districts, community colleges, or universities. Also problematic is a provision that allows employers to decide how to spread the 20 percent cost among employees, meaning some employees will pay more or less than 20 percent of the cost of their own health plan cost. Contact your state representative NOW and ask him/her to oppose Senate Bill 7.


•The House Education Committee passed House Bills 4625, 4626, 4627, and 4628 to overturn due process and collective bargaining rights and make it possible for administrators to fire teachers without just cause. These bills would prohibit collective bargaining of many more subjects, including teacher placement, performance evaluation, and merit pay. MEA opposes these bills; contact your representative to ask him/her to vote no on this package.

•Media outlets reported a possible deal to restore some state funding for public education after state revenues were higher than expected. Details remain sketchy, but reports indicate the cut could go from $470 per student to $270 per student, which remains significant.

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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Act now: Help fight health care cost shift, privatization

Big votes expected Thursday -- we need your help!

Lawmakers on Thursday are expected to vote on separate proposals that strip local school districts of big decisions related to health care costs and privatization.

MEA staff and leaders will be at the Capitol Thursday to lobby against these bills -- and your legislative contacts are vital to our efforts to derail or modify these bills.  Contact Senator Walker and demand he vote NO on Senate Bill 7.  Contact your Representative and demand he vote NO HB 4306.

House considers major tenure overhaul

A four-bill package to dismantle teacher tenure would also eliminate significant collective bargaining rights for public employees.

Read more...

Saturday, May 7, 2011

House Votes To Cut K-12 Funding

As you probably already have heard, the House voted to cut K-12 funding this past Thursday.  The House voted 57-53 for House Bill 4325.  Under the plan, K-12 districts will receive hundreds less in state aid per pupil for 2011-12 to pay for huge tax breaks for business.  Both Rep. Greg MacMaster (105th) and Frank Foster (107th) voted for the massive cut in order to give businesses a huge $1.8 billion tax cut.  While this vote is very disappointing, the budget battle isn't over. The House and Senate now must reconcile competing funding plans.  I have been hearing from numerous sources that your phone calls, e-mails, and letters are having a positive impact on the outcome of this and several other bill dealing with teacher tenure, attacks on unions, and collective bargaining.
The battle over K-12 funding is far from over.  We all must keep contacting our legislators and demand they stop this assault on public education, unions, and the middle class.  You have a prime opportunity on Monday May 16 to let your voice be heard by attending a meeting at Boyne City High School to speak directly to Rep. Greg MacMaster.  We need everyone to attend.  Rep. MacMaster owes us an explanation as to why he voted for the huge cuts to our schools while saying he is a strong proponent for public education and teachers.  Now is the time to act!  Keep contacting your legislator.  Do not let them off the hook!

Update To MacMaster Meeting

The meeting with Rep. Greg MacMaster on Monday, May 16, will be moved to Michele Deming and Dave Hills classroom at the high school.
The meeting will start at 4pm.  Please plan to attend and make your opinion known.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A Chance To Voice Your Opinion

What: Meeting with Greg MacMaster


Where: Boyne City Middle School, room 137 (Carol Johnston’s room)


When: 4:00 p.m. Monday May 16th


Who: Teachers and Support Staff


Why: To be informed and let your representative know what issues are important to you. If you don’t tell him, he won’t know.
(Talking points will be handed out if you are afraid you won’t know what to say. :)


Thanks for your time! Please shoot me an e-mail if you plan to attend so I can get a head count.
~Stacy McGeorge

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Talking Points on Legislation Made Easy

I have heard from several members they want to contact their legislator, but are not sure what to say or feel uninformed.  MEA has a direct link to talking points on specific bills that you may wish to voice your opinion on.  Go to http://www.mea.org/ , click on "Bill Tracker" in the right hand margin.  You will be directed to a new page listing current legislation that MEA is tracking.  Bills in need of urgent action will alert you with a message in blue in the far right hand column.  Now, here is the good part, at the top of the page, in blue, is a link to talking points for each of the most urgent bills.  There you have it!  By clicking on the talking points link, you will have the information you need to fire off a letter or e-mail to your legislator at your fingertips.  Better yet, make a phone call and use the information to tell them how you feel.
We must continue to oppose cuts to education, legislation aimed at destroying public unions, and your right to make a decent living and take care of your family.  Your actions do have a powerful impact on what is happening.  Keep the pressure on.

Lot's going On in Lansing & Vote Results

First, I have decided not to post the mea vote results on the blog due to the fact it is a public blog and the information is confidential.  If you wish to know the results, please contact your building rep.

There are numerous bills pending in the legislature regarding collective bargaining rights, teacher tenure, cuts to education funding, and general attacks on our profession.  Go to www.mea.org and click on the "bill Tracker" on the right hand side of the page.  You can read the bills that need your immediate attention and you can click on the link to the right to contact your legislator.  E-mail, call, or write your legislators to stop these attacks on education and teachers in Michigan.  Your comments and contacts do have an impact, but we must not stop.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Real Reason for Financial Marshall Law

Want to know what really happens when a Emergency Financial Manager comes to a town near you?  Watch this video from the Rachel Maddow Show.
video

Monday, April 18, 2011

Do As I Madate, Not as I Do

Want to know what standards teachers for President obama and Sec. Duncan's kids are held to?  check it out below.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/teacher-evaluations-at-the-schools-that-obama-duncan-picked-for-their-kids/2011/04/15/AF1S1cwD_story.html

Coming Soon to a Town Near You - EFM Takes Over in Benton harbor

Believed to be the first town in Michigan taken over by an EFM under the new law.  Click on link below to read the story.
http://detroit.cbslocal.com/2011/04/16/efm-suspends-authority-of-benton-harbor-officials/

Road Trip!

NMEA will be sending several busses with members to Lansing next Thursday, April 28 to meet and speak with your legislators.  Each local in Northern Michigan is sending two members.  Boyne City needs at least one more person to go (more, if we want).  Busses will leave Gaylord from the Glen's parking lot at 9:30am April 28. Lunch will be provided.  You will need to use a personal day in order to go.  If interested, contact Stacy McGeorge.  This is your chance to speak directly to your legislators and let them know how you feel.

Petoskey Asking for Help

Petoskey EA and ESP has invited us to a Bar-B-Q this Thursday, April 21 beginning at 5pm.  It will be at the Fair grounds in Petoskey.  After dinner, everyone will proceed to the Board meeting.  If you can attend, they ask that you wear red, as the staff is doing so to show unity.

Ready for a Road Trip?

Rep. Greg Macmaster is having a Town Hall meeting this Friday, April 22 in Elk Rapids.  If you are interested, meet at the middle school parking lot this Friday @ 12:30pm to car pool down.  We will grab lunch on the way.  You have a chance to speak your mind and now is the time to do it.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Get Your Wallet Out; This is Going to Hurt

Below is a list of pending legislation all aimed at taking money away from you, your school, and restricting your union officer's ability to represent you.  Call or e-mail NOW!  You can make a difference.

Go to http://www.mea.org/ and click on "Bill Tracker" to see all pending legislation

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

BCEA/ESP Meeting Thursday

Do Not forget to attend Thursday's meeting @ 3:30pm in Michele Deming's room. We will be discussing and vote on whether to approve crisis activities as requested by MEA.  Remember, our by-laws state if we have a quorum (10% of members present), we may hold a vote on the question as noted.  It is vital that you attend.  The actual wording of the ballot is;

"As a member of the _____________ , I authorize the Michigan Education Assoction to initiate crisis activities up to, and including, job action."

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Monday, March 28, 2011

Important BCEA/ESP Association Meeting

When:  3:30pm Thursday, April 14, 2010

Where:  H.S. Michele Deming's room

As you probably know, MEA Board of Directors is calling on local associations across the state to conduct local votes to provide MEA the authority to initiate crisis activities -- up to and including a job action -- in response to the ongoing legislative crisis in Lansing.

Information will be provided at the meeting to clarify what "crisis activities" are and what it would mean if a job action was called for.  Also, time will be given for discussion and questions.  Provided we have a quorum, members in attendance will vote via paper ballot and results will be forwarded to MEA.  Please mark your calendars and plan to attend.

Legislative Update March 24, 2011

Legislature on break for two weeks
March 24 - Lawmakers recessed today for two weeks without voting on measures that would infringe on collective bargaining and local control. The Legislature returns to session April 12.
At that time, the Senate could vote on House Bill 4152, a bill to freeze wages and benefits when a collective bargaining agreement expires until a new contract takes effect. This would effectively eliminate step raises between contracts and require employees to pay any increased costs of maintaining health insurance and other benefits. The legislation would also prohibit any retroactive increase in wages or benefits after a new contract is signed. MEA opposes this bill -- please contact your state senator NOW and urge him/her to vote NO on House Bill 4152.
And in the House, House Bill 4059, which would prohibit public employers from paying union officials for time conducting union business, is still pending. MEA opposes this bill, too. Please contact your state representative and ask him/her to vote NO on House Bill 4059.
While lawmakers are back home, it's a good time to set up meetings with them or to attend constituent events they have planned in the district. Take time to reach out to your elected leaders -- it's important that they hear from you!

The Fight Is Not Over

Legislature on break for two weeks
Lawmakers recessed on Thursday for two weeks without voting on measures that would infringe on collective bargaining and local control. The Legislature returns to session April 12.
Now, more than ever, you need to stay on top of developments at the Capitol and how they will impact your students, your job, and your community. MEA offers multiple ways for you to keep informed – check out this list of our communication options and choose the one(s) that will help you the most. Read more.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Keep After 'Em!

Legislature on break for two weeks
March 24 - Lawmakers recessed today for two weeks without voting on measures that would infringe on collective bargaining and local control. The Legislature returns to session April 12.
At that time, the Senate could vote on House Bill 4152, a bill to freeze wages and benefits when a collective bargaining agreement expires until a new contract takes effect. This would effectively eliminate step raises between contracts and require employees to pay any increased costs of maintaining health insurance and other benefits. The legislation would also prohibit any retroactive increase in wages or benefits after a new contract is signed. MEA opposes this bill -- please contact your state senator NOW and urge him/her to vote NO on House Bill 4152.
And in the House, House Bill 4059, which would prohibit public employers from paying union officials for time conducting union business, is still pending. MEA opposes this bill, too. Please contact your state representative and ask him/her to vote NO on House Bill 4059.
While lawmakers are back home, it's a good time to set up meetings with them or to attend constituent events they have planned in the district. Take time to reach out to your elected leaders -- it's important that they hear from you!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Keep the Pressure on! Major Bills Moving This Week! Contact your Legislators!!

Another busy week in Lansing -- an overview of key events
Lawmakers plan another busy week in Lansing, where multiple bills are moving that would affect you.
The Senate will consider House Bill 4152, a bill to freeze wages and benefits when a collective bargaining agreement expires until a new contract takes effect. This would effectively eliminate step raises between contracts and require employees to pay any increased costs of maintaining health insurance and other benefits.
The legislation would also prohibit any retroactive increase in wages or benefits after a new contract is signed. MEA opposes this bill. Please contact your state senator immediately to ask him/her to vote NO on House Bill 4152.
Also, this week, the state House is expected to vote on House Bill 4059, which would prohibit public employers from paying union officials for time conducting union business. A few school districts have negotiated paid release time for union representatives -- and MEA believes this issue should be decided at the local level based on local needs. Such joint decisions undoubtedly save time and money by resolving problems sooner. Please contact your representative to urge a NO vote on House Bill 4059.
Other scheduled business includes:
  • The House Appropriations School Aid Subcommittee will meet at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday in Room 426 of the Capitol. The panel will take testimony on the proposed school aid budget and also take testimony on a proposal to give half of a per pupil foundation grant to schools that offer just half-day kindergarten.
  • The House Oversight, Reform and Ethics Committee meets at noon Tuesday in Room 326 of the Capitol to consider House Bill 4052, a bill that would prohibit the use of taxpayer-funded equipment, supplies, and facilities for union or political activities. MEA opposes the bill.
  • The Senate Reforms, Restructuring and Reinventing Committee meets at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday to consider Senate Bill 7. The meeting is in Rooms 402-403 of the Capitol. Senate Bill 7 would require all public employees to pay at least 20 percent of the cost of their health insurance. MEA opposes this bill; the issue should be decided locally. In many instances, public employees have previously sacrificed wages or other benefits to maintain health insurance.
  • The Senate Appropriations K-12 School Aid and Education Subcommittee meets at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday in the Senate Appropriations Room at the Capitol to receive public testimony on the proposed school aid budget. Snyder has proposed deep budget cuts for schools.
  • The House Education Committee meets at 9 a.m. Wednesday in Room 519 of the House Office Building to consider House Bill 4306. This legislation would require schools to outsource support services.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Bill to Freeze Wages & Benefits During Negotiations on Fast Track

This bill was pushed by the Michigan Association of School Boards!!

House Bill 4152 passes out of committee--on a fast track in the Senate
HB 4152 was voted out of the Senate Education Committee this week after passing the House last week.
The bill is an outright attack on collective bargaining that would have a devastating financial impact on every teacher, support staff employee and public employees in general.
HB 4152 is an amendment to PERA that caps wages and benefits at the level in effect when a collective bargaining agreement expires and until a new contract is in place. Any benefit cost increases after the contract expired must be paid by employees. The bill also prohibits the school district from implementing any step increases. No retroactivity would be allowed in the new agreement.
The Senate Fiscal Agency Analysis sees the costs savings when it says, "A protracted negotiation period could yield significant savings if step increases were not paid and increased health care costs were passed on to employees during that time."
HB 4152 destroys the idea of good faith bargaining. There's no incentive for a school district to settle in a timely fashion.
Contact your senator with the message that HB 4152 is an outright attack on your right to bargain. The bargaining table can't be a shared playing field when the balance of power is taken away from you. This is just another example of looking for cost savings on the backs of the middle class. It's not right.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Keep calling, Keep e-mailing!

Anti-labor bills still alive
  • Gov. Snyder signed the Emergency Manager bill today that assigns governor-appointed "takeover czars" to manage communities and school districts in financial trouble. The bill destroys local control and collective bargaining rights since this czar can eliminate elected bodies--like school boards--and can void employee contracts.
  • The House Education Committee heard testimony on House Bill 4306 after announcing that--as of last night--the bill no longer mandated privatization or acceptance of the lowest bid. However, the bill still requires school districts to bid out support services.
  • MEA Lobbyist Dave Stafford testified, addressing the impact privatization has on retirement costs. More than 30,000 current school employees could lose their jobs and the hidden costs of unemployment and retirement are not figured into a private company's bid for services. Currently, those "legacy costs" would be shifted to other employees and school districts.
  • A school custodian from Cheboygan and Frasier and the Ottawa ISD Superintendent Karen McPhee also testified in opposition to the bill.  All of them spoke of the redundancy of the bill since school districts can already privatize. McPhee said, "This bill looked reasonable before the creation of the Emergency Manager. This bill strips us of the tools to be fiscally responsible and heads us toward a takeover."
  • Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Scott, R-Grand Blanc, and Committee member Rep. Tom McMillan, R-Rochester Hills, often challenged those testifying. During Stafford's testimony, Rep. McMillan informed Stafford that, "Our focus is on the kids," and chastised him for not talking about students. Stafford replied, "Our focus is kids too. We work for the people who care deeply about kids."
  • The Senate Reforms, Restructuring and Reinventing Committee heard testimony today on Senate Bill 7. It was pointed out that the bill is punitive and doesn't take into consideration the contributions public employees have already made in terms of wage cuts, and higher copays on benefits. The Committee will hear more testimony next week.
  • House Bill 4152, freezing wages and benefits during negotiations for a new contract, passed out of the Senate Education Committee.
Updated March 15, 2011

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Legislative Update - contact Your congressman NOW!

Legislative Round-Up March 15,2011
  • The House Oversight, Reform, and Ethics Committee approved House Bill 4059 to prohibit public employers from paying release time for union officers or bargaining representatives. The bill passed 4-2, with Republicans voting in favor and Democrats voting "no." MEA opposes the bill; please contact your state representative and senator and tell him/her to continue to allow local schools the ability to decide this issue at the local level.
  • All MEA members are urged to get to the Capitol for an afternoon of protests about the ongoing attacks on working families and Michigan's Middle Class -- the theme is "We ARE the People" and we will stand strong with members of other labor and progressive organizations. The protest begins at noon and continues until at least 6 p.m. More details are available at http://www.mea.org/.
  • The House Education Committee will take testimony on a bill to force districts to get bids to outsource the jobs of many educational support professionals. MEA opposes House bill 4306 and one of our lobbyists will testify before the panel. If you plan to be in Lansing by 9 a.m. Wednesday, go to Room 519 of the House Office Building to monitor developments. For more information, go to www.mea.org/gov.
  • The Senate Reforms, Restructuring and Reinventing Committee on Wednesday will listen to testimony about Senate Bill 7, a bill that would require all public employees pay a certain percentage of the cost of their health insurance. MEA opposes this bill -- the issue should be settled locally at the bargaining table, not in Lansing. In many instances, school employees have previously sacrificed wages or other benefits to maintain health insurance.
  • The Senate Education Committee will take up House Bill 4152, a bill to freeze wages, including step increases, for public employees when a contract expires and before a new contract is negotiated. Employees who receive health, dental, vision, prescription, or other insurance benefits would have to pay any increased cost during that time. Employees could not receive any retroactive payments for wages or health insurance costs as part of settling the contract. MEA opposes the bill.
  • School superintendents from Hanover-Horton, Concord, and Garden City and Avondale testified before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on School Aid Tuesday. Each superintendent spoke against further budget cuts, as outlined in Snyder's proposal. "The cuts to our district would be devastating," said Michelle Cline, superintendent of Garden City Public Schools, who added that her district would "almost undeniably shut our doors. . . . Passage of this budget would be crushing." The subcommittee doesn't yet have a formal budget bill; Snyder wants the budget completed by May 31.

ALERT!! Congress to Cut Federal Education Funs to Schools

Please take the time to send a letter to your congress person opposing the education cuts.  We are at risk of losing thousands of teaching jobs including the one that Dana currently holds.  Why is education always the first to get cut?  Always money for prisons and war, but not education?
Click here to send the letter to your members of Congress.
Federal education funding is in grave danger with the introduction of H.R. 1-the Full Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011-, and we’re calling upon you to take action. 
H.R. 1 would impose the greatest education cut in history, cutting education programs by over $10.5 billion or 15.4%. We cannot afford to let this legislation pass and we need you, as a school leader advocate, to help us convince members of Congress why.

Education programs that are vital to student achievement would be slashed in devastating ways, impacting millions of students and thousands of education jobs nationwide. For example, the proposed cut of $694 million to Title I (serving low-income students) would impact 957,000 students and could affect 9,000 jobs; likewise, it would cut $558 million from IDEA (Special Education funding to states), impacting 324,000 students and affecting 7,100 jobs. This drastic cut from IDEA would occur at a time when the federal government is still only funding IDEA at less than half of its promise of 40% toward the additional cost to educate students with disabilities. As a result, states and districts would have to incur an even greater burden for special education and other costs than they already struggle to do.

Another program that would be completely eliminated is the Striving Readers program, which several states rely on to implement comprehensive preK-12 literacy programs. This legislation would also eliminate funding for the program that was already appropriated in FY 2010, which means that the work done by 44 states through the state literacy teams to integrate and improve reading and writing instruction will be lost. Further, with the loss of Striving Readers funding, our nation will have no dedicated program to improve reading and writing instruction; the National Assessment of Educational Progress will continue to show no meaningful overall improvement in reading and writing scores; and the improvement of literacy instruction in middle and high school will continue to be neither systematic nor comprehensive.

Cuts of this magnitude to education programs would completely reverse progress on improving student achievement, closing achievement gaps and increasing high school graduation, postsecondary education attendance and college completion rates.

These cuts would come at a time when schools and colleges are facing both the termination of ARRA funds and deep cuts in state aid due to unprecedented and continuing state budget gaps that will result in substantial reductions and layoffs at all levels of education. Since January 2010, the combined number of state and local government education employees dropped by over 81,000 positions.

For all of the above reasons and the countless stories of those who would be affected by such cuts, we urge you to contact your members of Congress using the accompanying draft letter on PLAC to oppose H.R. 1 and instead to support the well-being of our PreK-postgraduate population, and thus our future.
Click here to send the letter to your members of Congress.
Thank you for your assistance in our advocacy efforts.
Amanda Karhuse and Mary Kingston

Why testing can be bad for kids... and tax payers

Millions paid for recycling tests

By Conny Jensen On March 14, 2011 · Leave a Comment
BY TODD FARLEY as published in the DETROIT FREE PRESS
“While most of my colleagues opted not to dine on goat that evening, they nonetheless reveled in wine or cocktails and big, delicious steaks. It was a great night to work in standardized testing.”
—————————
I had the goat.
That’s what I remember about my travels to Detroit last year, when working as a test developer for an educational publishing company. I made two separate trips to Motown to get teacher approval on the K-12 assessments my company “developed” for them.
While I have only vague recollections of the work those teachers and I did, I do have a very clear memory of dinner one night. It was at Roast. The night my colleagues and I visited, the daily special was goat, the whole animal skewered on a spit and roasting over an open flame. I happily gorged myself on a plateful of meat hacked off the roasting carcass, crispy skin included, and it was delectable.
While most of my colleagues opted not to dine on goat that evening, they nonetheless reveled in wine or cocktails and big, delicious steaks. It was a great night to work in standardized testing. While my colleagues and I enjoyed other nice meals in Motown, most of our time was less festive.
Our reception at the Detroit Public Schools’ administration building wasn’t very warm, both because the heat wasn’t turned on and because the Detroit teachers recruited to OK our assessments seemed cynical about our presence. There were nearly 20 of us standardized testers on site that day (test developers, senior test developers, supervisors, project managers, customer service reps), and one teacher wasn’t very impressed that there were nearly twice as many of us than them.
“Who are all you people anyways?” she snarled. “And what do you think you are doing here?”
Her implication, of course, was that those of us who had jetted to Detroit from Chicago and New York (and Minneapolis and Missouri and New Mexico) had no idea what went on in the Detroit Public Schools and, frankly, that we had little to offer. When some of the teachers told us about the conditions they experienced each day (a lack of textbooks in classrooms but a surfeit of students, metal detectors at front doors, cars stolen right out of school parking lots), it was hard to argue the point.
“I asked myself that question at the time, and I ask it especially now, when I’m amazed to read about the “draconian” measures being taken by DPS Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb. Bobb is attempting to solve DPS’ $327-million budget shortfall by closing nearly half of Detroit’s schools, increasing class sizes in the remaining ones to as high as 60. It seems an insane idea to me, especially since I feel responsible for a big chunk of that deficit.
The company I worked for is owned by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, which just completed a 15-month contract with DPS worth nearly $40 million, or more than 12% of DPS’ entire budget shortfall, for HMH’s “managed instruction” in reading and math. While I don’t know exactly what $40 million of “managed instruction” looks like, I know some of those millions were used to pay for the tests I helped slap together (mostly recycling passages and questions that had been used many times before) and to sponsor my travels to Detroit.
It all just gives me pause. I’m still hard-pressed to see the benefits of sending those millions to Boston to line the gilded coffers of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Wouldn’t the city of Detroit have been better served by spending that money to keep its schools open or to hire teachers, coaches, staff or security? Isn’t all of that a better way to give the city’s kids a chance to succeed than paying tens of millions for the “expertise” of a bunch of people who will have no more than cursory interactions with the city of Detroit?
Wouldn’t that money have been better spent on something other than buying me dinner? Notwithstanding that tasty goat at Roast, today the thought of my days in Detroit leaves nothing but a bad taste in my mouth.
—————————————————-
Todd Farley is the author of  ”Making the Grades: My Misadventures in the Standardized Testing Industry.“”

Finally, some good news in the press

Watching Uproar Over Wisconsin Protests, It's Time to Remember How Unions Make Our Lives Better

By Sally Kohn
Published March 10, 2011
| FoxNews.com
If you’re cheering on Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s decision to destroy both democracy and working families by ramming through anti-union legislation backed by big business, shame on you! I’m sick of unions being vilified by conservative commentators and voters alike who, in fact, have very directly and tangibly benefited from unionization.
In the 1920s, before the peak of the union movement, income inequality and wealth distribution in America reached dangerous proportions. Incomes for the nation as a whole were barely keeping pace with inflation while incomes for the top 1% of Americans skyrocketed up seventy-five percent. Unions, along with a host of New Deal era accomplishments, helped drastically turn this tide. 
In 1955, when the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) was formed, Republican President Eisenhower praised the newly combined labor federation and unions in general for achieving economic prosperity for all.

It was widely accepted that following an era in which the robber barons recklessly abused workers in order to extract maximum wealth, unions were the way working class Americans could fight back together for rights, benefits and fair wages.

Which is why big business -- and big business-backed politicians like Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker -- have worked so hard to destroy unions ever since. Do you really think big business gives a damn about “our economy” or “your jobs”? Come on. They care about their bottom line. That’s what businesses do. Unions care about workers.

Unions raise the wages of workers by roughly 20% and raise total compensation, including both wage and benefits after union dues are deducted, by twenty-eight percent. The effect is even greater for low- and middle-wage workers and those without a college degree. 

Unionized workers are significantly more likely than non-union workers to get paid leave, employer-provided health insurance and employer-provided pension plans (in fact, up to 54% more likely). And unionized workers receive 26% more vacation time and 14% more paid leave.

What’s not to like about that?

But here’s the kicker: Even if you’re not in a union, unions help you. There’s an old bumper sticker that reads, “Like your weekend? Thank a union!” A bigger bumper sticker might read, “Like your weekend, your 40-hour work week, your workers compensation program, your employee benefits, your minimum wage, your safety standards on the job? Thank a union.”

But that’s not all.

Unions set a standard that even non-unionized workplaces have to follow. For example, a high school graduate who works in a field that is only 25% unionized earns 5% more than similar workers in less unionized industries. Wouldn’t you take a 5% raise right now?

And no, workers who get good salaries and benefits aren’t taking money out of your pocket. They’re taking it from CEO salaries and bonuses. The top five big banks on Wall Street set aside $89.54 billion for bonuses last year --- only a 2.8% decline from the previous year, even though profits were down four percent. In other words, even with lower profits, big business across the country can afford to pay executives a small fortune. They can easily afford to pay decent wage and benefits to average workers.

The same is true for public sector employees. States across the country have been slashing wages and benefits for teachers and other public servants in order to give obscene tax breaks to big business and the super-rich. Note that in Wisconsin, 60% of corporations making more than $1 million per year in revenues pay zero taxes. Zero.

Anti-union oligarchs literally want to take money from working people and put it in the pockets of the super-rich. If you’re against that, find a union and join it.

For the record, unions primarily target large industries and employers so the “this hurts small business” argument is nothing but a distraction. Plus, if a small business is paying such abysmal wages that the unionization of the industry pushes the small business to also raise pay, good --- they shouldn’t have been so low in the first place.

And also for the record, many of the talking heads who rail against unions are, in fact, union members. Most every television and radio show host, for instance, belongs to the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. They may resent having to be in structures to which they’re so ideologically opposed, but the fact is that their good wages and benefits and working conditions were won and are preserved by their union.

And when these same talking heads suggest that we don’t need unions to level the economic playing field, that plenty of poor people grow up to be rich, most of the examples they cite are union members, too. 
Baseball players who rose from the ghetto to the major league? It wasn’t until they unionized that baseball players got rich. 
Actors? Unionized, including recent Oscar winner actress Natalie Portman who thanked the Screen Actors Guild union for making sure she got an education and was protected as a child actor.

Anti-union policies hurt all workers. The average worker in a so-called “Right-to-Work” state that hinders unionization makes $5,538 per year less than workers in free bargaining states. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, workplace death rates are 52.9% higher in “Right-to-Work” states than free bargaining states. “Right-to-Work” states have higher rates of poverty, higher infant mortality rates and lower percentages of residents with health insurance.

This is simple. The vast majority of Americans think it’s wrong that 400 obscenely rich people hold more wealth and power than the assets of 155 million ordinary Americans combined. Why? Because it is wrong. 
Such monstrous inequality and lack of opportunity for ordinary Americans is not a sign that capitalism is broken but a sign that our economy and politics have been rigged to work for the very few at the top. And since the same few rich people and big businesses at the top make most of the political contributions in our country, politicians are woefully skittish to challenge their greed. 
And that's why the final reason to thank a union, the organized voice -- and yes, political money, too -- large enough to stand up to the otherwise-unchecked disastrous power of big businesses that care nothing about you or our economy and care only about their profit. That’s not what America is about. 
That's  why we let people vote to join unions, to stand up together for working Americans and to fulfill the vision of freedom and equality for which our nation was founded. -- Just like we let people vote anti-democratic, anti-working families politicians out of office.
Sally Kohn is a community organizer and political commentator. She is the Founder and Chief Education Officer of the Movement Vision Lab

Monday, March 14, 2011

Contact Your Legislator NOW!!

Last Thursday, the House prepared for final passage a bill that would freeze teachers' salaries and benefit levels during contract negotiations.

The measure,
HB 4152, is one of an array of bills currently chugging through the GOP-controlled legislature that would eliminate options that labor brings to local bargaining tables. From the viewpoint of labor, the bills would interfere with the local collective bargaining process.
HB 4152 is sponsored by Rep. Marty KNOLLENBERG (R-Troy) (See "Teacher Negotiation Wage Freeze Bill Reported," 3/2/11).

As previously reported in MIRS, it's believed
HB 4152 could have legs in the Senate. It was one of the measures that came from the task force Senate Education Committee Chair Phil PAVLOV (R-St. Clair) headed last year.

Former House Education Chair Tim MELTON (D-Auburn Hills) today offered three amendments to
HB 4152. They were all defeated quickly by quick gavel.

They were:

- To tie bar the bill to
HB 4373, which would cap superintendent salaries;

- Taking language out of the bill that would prohibit retroactivity; and

- Changing language in the bill that makes employees pay for health care increases that might occur during negotiations.

When the bill was before the House Education Committee it was changed to allow healthcare coverage for additional dependents during negotiations.

Melton didn't speak on his amendments. He told reporters that he had discussed them with House Speaker Jase BOLGER (R-Marshall) and decided nothing would be gained by making a floor statement.