MEA and others file lawsuit to invalidate illegal ‘right-to-work’ law

EAST LANSING, Mich., Feb. 1, 2013 — Michigan’s new “right-to-work” law should be overturned because the state Legislature violated state and federal open government laws when passing it, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday by the Michigan Education Association and others in Ingham County Circuit Court.

Without a single public hearing, the state House and Senate passed legislation on the afternoon of Dec. 6 to make Michigan a right-to-work state. Simultaneously that afternoon, state police barred citizens from entering the Capitol, despite state law that requires the Capitol to remain open when the Legislature is in session. In addition, partisan legislative staffers were also ordered to fill the public galleries in the House and Senate to stop regular citizens from observing the votes.

According to the lawsuit, Michigan lawmakers violated the Michigan Open Meetings Act, the state Constitution and the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

"By allowing state police to block citizens from entering the Capitol, Lansing politicians not only violated the basic American principles of open and transparent government, they also violated specific state and federal laws designed to protect the rights of citizens," MEA President Steven Cook said. "We're confident the courts will agree that the Legislature's actions on the afternoon of Dec. 6 constituted a clear violation of the Open Meetings Act and should be invalidated."

Teachers boycott high-stakes standardized test

In what National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel said is a “defining moment within the education profession,” teachers in Seattle are boycotting a district-mandated standardized test because it would have the ultimate effect of harming student learning.

Teachers at Garfield High School in Seattle unanimously decided on Jan. 9 not to administer the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) standardized test, a move that has garnered national attention and support from educators, parents and students. Other Seattle-area teachers have followed the Garfield teachers’ lead and are refusing to give the test.

The MAP is a computer-administered test that is supposed to measure math and reading skills. It’s intended to be used for high-stakes evaluations of teachers. What it really does, however, is rob students of critical class time and tie up computer labs, all while failing to measure what students are actually learning in the classroom.

Bargaining and Public Affairs Conference fast approaching -- register today!

Registration is still open for the 2013 MEA Bargaining and Public Affairs Conference, which will be held Feb. 7-8 at Cobo Hall in Detroit. Click here to download a printable program and registration form.

The Bargaining and Public Affairs Conference will feature numerous educational and informative sessions geared toward collective bargaining, public affairs and professional development.

The theme of this year's conference is "Advocacy Through Member Engagement," and will feature keynote speaker Deborah Loewenberg Ball, chair of the Michigan Council for Educator Effectiveness and dean of the University of Michigan's School of Education.

The conference will also feature a two-day session called the Blended Learning Institute. The session will provide educators with options for bring blended learning into their classrooms to create a more dynamic learning experience. 

Registration still open for 2013 Bargaining and Public Affairs Conference

Registration still open for 2013 Bargaining and Public Affairs Conference

Registration is still open for the 2013 MEA Bargaining and Public Affairs Conference, which will be held Feb. 7-8 at Cobo Hall in Detroit.

Click here to download a printable program and registration form.

The theme of the conference is "Advocacy Through Member Engagement," and will feature keynote speaker Deborah Loewenberg Ball, chair of the Michigan Council for Educator Effectiveness and dean of the University of Michigan's School of Education.

Ball, an expert on teacher training and development, serves as director of TeachingWorks, a national organization dedicated to improving teacher education. Ball convincingly argues that policymakers must place more focus on developing current teachers -- both experienced and those just starting out. Skillful teaching is not common sense, Ball says. Instead, skillful teaching can -- and must -- be taught.

Final deadline for MPSERS retirement elections is Wednesday, Jan. 9

Members of the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System have until 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 9, to make their final elections on pension and retiree benefits.

Members hired before July 1, 2010, have three options:

  1. Remit higher contributions in exchange for retaining the 1.5-percent pension multiplier for future years of service. Employees will be required to identify whether they wish to contribute the higher amounts until retirement, or until they achieve 30 years of service.
  2. Remit the same contributions as before, but have a 1.25-percent pension multiplier for future years of service.
  3. Remit no contributions, freeze the existing pension benefit, and convert to a specified 4-percent defined contribution plan for future years of service. 

Conn. school shooting tragedy reinforces need for real discussions on student, employee safety

EAST LANSING, Mich., Friday, Dec. 14, 2012 — The following statement can be attributed to MEA President Steve Cook in response to today's school shooting in Connecticut and the need for greater focus on student and school employee safety:

"More than 30 times since Columbine, unconscionable acts of gun violence in American schools have either ended or forever changed the lives of students and school employees. Speaking for MEA's 150,000 members, all our condolences go out to the victims and their families, as well as the entire community of Newton, as they deal with the senseless deaths of these children and educators. 

"Regardless of what the details and facts are of today's events in Connecticut, this nation must have a real conversation about guns and the safety of our students and those who care for them.

"I am a gun owner and avid outdoorsman, but something must be done to protect our children from such acts of violence.  Entire school communities -- boards, administrators, teachers, support staff, parents and students -- need to be partners in discussions to ensure our school buildings are safe and protected from these kinds of crimes, using the latest in technology and building design to secure buildings and classrooms from those who would bring harm to students, whether armed or not.

"But we need REAL solutions. Just yesterday, the Michigan Legislature passed SB 59, which allows for concealed firearms in our schools. Those who think that students and teachers will be safer with MORE guns in our schools are just plain wrong.  Thinking that teachers should carry weapons and fire on threats is a recipe for even more death -- not safety. I hope Governor Snyder understands this and vetoes SB 59, not only for the safety of our children but out of respect for those who died today in Connecticut. To sign this bill in light of this tragedy would be unfathomable."

Action needed NOW to oppose so-called 'right-to-work'

Yesterday, Gov. Rick Snyder and the Republicans rammed through their so-called "right-to-work" bills in hours, locked citizens out of the Capitol, made a mockery of the democratic process and undermined the rights of Michigan’s middle class.

A recap of yesterday's activities is on www.mea.org, plus every media outlet in the state. We anticipate that the House and Senate will pass the final versions of the RTW bills on Tuesday and send them to the governor for his signature.

It's time to take action immediately. Here's a checklist of activities between now and Tuesday:

  • Step 1: Call Gov. Rick Snyder at (517) 373-3400 and/or email him at rick.snyder@michigan.gov and demand that he veto right-to-work legislation, which weakens unions and makes it easier for corporate CEOs to cut wages and benefits. And continue to contact your legislators to express your anger at their actions.
  • Step 2: Email midistricts@gmail.com to find out what you can do to help take local action this weekend. Lawmakers will be in their home districts this weekend, and they need to hear from you!
  • Step 3: Wear red on Monday and participate in a local, legal workplace action. Individual unions are planning their own activities, so check with your local union leaders for details -- or better yet, help them plan it! The goal is to do everything you can to inform your friends, families, neighbors and networks about what extremist politicians are doing to school employees and other middle-class families.
  • Step 4: Make plans to come to the state Capitol on Tuesday and make your voice heard. Workers from across Michigan will be there all day speaking out against right-to-work and its disastrous and divisive impact on working families and our state. Keep an eye on your inbox for more details.

The final vote is still nearly four days away. That means there are about four days to take action and try to stop these extremists from trampling on our rights! Call Gov. Snyder and his Republican allies, make plans to come to the Capitol Tuesday, and email midistricts@gmail.com to participate in a local action this weekend.

If you can’t make it to the Capitol on Tuesday or participate in a local action this weekend, please take just a few minutes to hop on your phone or email and contact Gov. Snyder and lawmakers.

The time to act is now.

House and Senate pass versions of ‘right-to-work’; adjourn until Tuesday

Following this morning’s announcement by Gov. Snyder and Republican legislative leaders about their support of so-called “right-to-work” legislation, the state House and Senate took swift action in passing bills implementing the deceptive, flawed concept for both public and private sector workers.

Both chambers amended existing bills to include language allowing workers to choose not to pay their fair share of the costs of negotiating their contract. The bills legalize freeloading, which pits workers against one another and gives corporate special interests an even greater advantage in being able to cut wages and benefits.

In the House, HB 4054 was amended and passed by a vote of 58-52 to implement “right-to-work” for private sector workers.  Six Republicans (Forlini, Goike, Horn, McBroom, Sommerville and Zorn) voted no along with all Democrats.

On the Senate side, both public and private sector workers were attacked -- SB 116 and HB 4003 were passed with 22 Republican votes each, with four Republicans (Rocca, Casperson, Nofs and Green) voting no. Senate Democrats all voted against SB 116 -- all 12 chose not to vote on HB 4003 in protest. Local police and fire employees, as well as state police, were exempted.

Call NOW to protect your rights -- before it's too late!

Governor Snyder and Republican legislative leadership said in a press conference this morning that they intend to push so-called "right-to-work" legislation TODAY.

All MEA members need to call their state representative, state senator and Governor Snyder immediately.

Urge them to stop this assault on workers and their families. Tell them that this law will do nothing to create jobs and put Michigan back to work -- it will only create the divisive political climate that we saw in Wisconsin and Ohio.

Particular bills are still being developed, but the intent is clearly to move swiftly with this attack. The Legislature just announced they plan to stay in Lansing all weekend to work on this divisive agenda -- avoiding returning home to face their constituents.

Whether they call it "right-to-work" or "freedom-to-work", this law simply isn’t about working, creating jobs or helping the economy. The only thing it does is allow for individuals to choose not to pay their fair share in the cost of negotiating the contract they benefit from. It divides workers and allows corporate special interests to take more money out of the pockets of every worker -- union or non-union -- hurting the economic future of our families and our state.

Tell your state representative, state senator and Governor Snyder to stop putting the priorities of their corporate special interests ahead of our middle class. Tell them to stop this attack on your rights before they tear Michigan apart.


'Right-to-work' bill could be introduced today -- come to the Capitol to help stop it!

MEA members, retirees and staff are being urged to come to Lansing tomorrow, Dec. 6, to join other citizen lobbyists in urging lawmakers to vote NO on so-called "right-to-work" legislation, which sources say could be introduced as early as 4 p.m. today.

Regardless of whether you can make it tomorrow, please call your lawmakers today and urge them to vote NO on right-to-work. Click here to find contact information for your legislators and call them immediately!

Citizen lobbyists will rendezvous tomorrow morning at UAW Local 724, 450 Clare St. in Lansing, at 8 a.m., 9 a.m. and 10 a.m., as well as at the Michigan AFL-CIO, 419 S. Washington Square in Lansing, at 8 a.m., 9 a.m., 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. Upon arrival at either location, volunteers will receive training and materials before proceeding to the Capitol building. Please RSVP to come to Lansing tomorrow by clicking here.