The Senate acted quickly on Wednesday to make sure graduate student research assistants wouldn’t have a say in whether they could unionize or not. SB 971 was introduced last week, passed on a party-line vote by the Government Operations Committee on Tuesday and passed on the Senate floor on a 26-12 party line vote on Wednesday.
When Gov. Snyder presents his budget proposal to the Legislature tomorrow, schools are expected to see a 2.8 to 3 percent increase in state funding—still not enough to make up for a $1 billion cut to schools last year so corporate special interests could enjoy a $1.8 billion tax cut.
The House Oversight, Reform and Ethics Committee heard testimony this week on HB 5023-5026, a package of anti-union bills meant to curtail the powers of labor unions. HB 5025—which requires annual written consent from employees to have union dues deducted from their paychecks—was the topic of most of the testimony.
The House Oversight, Reform and Ethics Committee heard testimony Tuesday from union members who oppose HB 5023-5026, bills restricting union activities and punishing union members. And all of them pretty much said the same thing—the legislation is punitive, unnecessary, irrelevant and unconstitutional.
HB 5025, probably the most damaging piece of anti-union legislation in the package, requires an employee’s annual written authorization to have their union dues deducted from their paychecks. Supporters say this bill gives workers more opportunities to control whether money is collected for political activities or other functions—control workers already have, making this legislation just another attack on unions.
Union members repeatedly testified that PAC contributions do not come from dues; they are a voluntary contribution. They also stressed that no worker in Michigan is forced to join a union. Workers can opt to pay their fair share which only pays for the salary and benefits the union has negotiated for all workers.
After lifting the cap on charter schools, the Legislature finished its business for the year today without doing any more harm to public education, students and public education employees and their unions.
The Senate did not take up HB 4929, legislation to end payroll deduction for union dues, or any of the litany of other anti-union bills under consideration. And the House took no action on SB 619 (unlimited expansion of cyber schools). But rest assured the debate over further attacks on public education, unions and the middle class will restart in the New Year.
The Legislature will be back in session January 11, 2012. For now, there is peace in Michigan.
The pressure is building in the state House to pass SB 618, the bill allowing for unlimited expansion of charter schools. There are still several Republican representatives who are opposed to the bill's provisions that remove the cap on charters without increasing accountability measures. But they are under intense pressure to vote in favor of SB 618.
Call your state representative right away -- contact information can be found at http://bit.ly/sBEt9 . Urge them to vote no on SB 618. Tell them that unchecked expansion of charter schools will hurt your district and your students, siphoning even more resources away from our neighborhood schools.
This week represents that last legislative days for 2011 and there are issues which could see action this week.
SB 618 may be up for a vote in the House, but so far there don't seem to be enough votes to support it. The idea of removing the cap on charter schools is meeting resistance from legislators who are concerned about the impact that throwing open the doors to charters will have on traditional public schools. President Cook has sent a letter to state representatives urging them to vote "no" on SB 618 and reaffirming our opposition to the bill. That letter, along with messages to your representatives seems to be having an effect, but we can't stop the efforts. Contact your representatives. Find out where they stand on SB 618. If they oppose it, thank them for their vote and ask what kind of support they need. If they agree with taking the cap off charter schools, tell them true education reform is based on sound research that says small class sizes, more and better teacher training, greater parental involvement and adequate resources for student earning yield the greatest results for our students.