Showdown in Michigan as legislature debates right-to-work laws
posted at 10:01 am on December 11, 2012 by Ed Morrissey
Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. I remember this when it was called Madison in early 2011. Unions screaming that forcing workers to fund their coffers represented the ideal of freedom, while teachers called in sick but managed to look pretty healthy marching around a state capitol building while yelling at the top of their lungs about the benefits of forced dues extraction.
Missing teachers? Check:
At least 26,000 children will miss school today because their teachers called in sick or took a vacation day to protest proposed right-to-work legislation, which is expected to pass today.
Warren Consolidated Schools, Taylor School District and Fitzgerald Public Schools are confirmed to be closed. It is also suggested that schools in Detroit and St. Johns may be missing a significant number of teachers.
“We’ve had an excessive number of teachers call in,” Warren district spokesperson Robert Freehan said Monday afternoon. “We’re concerned about the safety and security of the students, so we’re treating it as a snow day.”
Ben Lazarus is a school board member-elect for Warren Consolidated. He believes the district, but not the teachers, made the right call.
“I think that political agendas shouldn’t take precedence over student learning,” said Lazarus.
Oh, how quaint. Remember when teachers unions were more concerned about their students than about their political power? Yeah, neither do I, but it’s still kind of cute to talk about those mythical times.
For example, according to the most recent federal filings, the Michigan Education Association — the state’s largest labor union — received $122 million and spent $134 million in 2012. They averaged about $800 from each of their 152,000 members.
According to union documents, “representational activities” (money spent on bargaining contracts for members) made up only 11 percent of total spending for the union. Meanwhile, spending on “general overhead” (union administration and employee benefits) comprised of 61 percent of the total spending.
So MEA members who disagree with the leadership of the union are paying up to 90 percent of their dues, but the union is only spending about a tenth of the dues money representing them.
If unions had to survive on customer and/or client satisfaction, would they survive? Unions in Michigan may end up having to find that out.
Byron York reports on how the timing of this fight works well for Republicans, and spells doom for Democrats:
Democrats are complaining about the speed with which Republicans are acting, but the truth is, organized labor has seen this coming for a while. Stung by the success of Gov. Scott Walker’s efforts to limit collective bargaining in Wisconsin — Walker’s actions have resulted in more money, more teachers and better conditions in schools around the state — they tried to make sure it wouldn’t happen again. In Michigan, they pushed what was known as Proposal 2, which would have enshrined union collective bargaining powers in the state constitution. If Proposal 2 had passed, what state GOP lawmakers are doing now would have been literally unconstitutional.
But Proposal 2 was decisively defeated on Election Day, 58 percent to 42 percent. The path was clear for Republicans to act.
GOP lawmakers appear determined to keep going. When Levin and other congressional leaders urged caution, a spokesman for Michigan House Speaker Jase Bolger hit back at them for “trying to tell Republicans in Michigan to slow down and not do our job in Lansing while they fail to resolve the nation’s fiscal cliff crisis or even approve a budget.” Hard to argue with that.