Michigan Activists Question Governor's Budget Priorities
More than 1,000 Michigan union members and their supporters converged on the state Capitol in Lansing on Feb. 22 to lobby their elected representatives against a group of bills that would give extraordinary powers to Emergency Financial Managers, including the right to throw out all labor contracts, strip the powers from local elected school boards and city councils, and impose their will with no means of appeal. In addition, the group lobbied against the governor's budget proposal that would cut funding to public schools and higher education, and legislation that would eliminate binding arbitration and make Michigan a right-to-work state.
Teachers, support staff and higher education faculty represented by AFT Michigan, as well as members of other unions, told their elected representatives that Gov. Rick Snyder's budget is not "shared sacrifice" but a gift to businesses and corporations at the expense of children, working families and seniors.
Like many states, Michigan faces a budget deficit.
"Lowering business taxes and increasing taxes on working people and seniors does not net out any additional income for the state," AFT Michigan president and AFT vice president David Hecker says.
"Schools and universities are supposed to deal with these cuts through increased efficiency," he adds."We are all for efficiency; our locals have proposed ideas for decades. However, in this case, 'efficiency' means reduced pay and our paying more for benefits."
Unions and their members have been problem-solvers for cities and schools when it comes to reducing costs and making concessions, Hecker says. "If you undercut collective bargaining, you're going to lose that problem-solving approach that collective bargaining is all about."
"People are very, very realistic about what's going on," he says. "We're not saying no to every concession you ask for, but you need to bargain."
More information about what's going on in Michigan is available here on the AFT website. [Roger Glass, AFT Michigan, Detroit Free Press/photos by Jeffrey Sauger]
February 25, 2011