Tag Archives: Michigan

Have You Noticed That The Ones Who Prattle Most About Freedom Are the Very Same Ones Who Are Working to Impose Tyranny?

Detroit_Emergency_Manager

Earlier this month during a 90 degree-plus day, the power in Detroit failed for four hours. People were sent home from work, people were stuck in elevators, breathing-impaired elderly were left suffering in apartments without air-cooling, the criminal courts were evacuated, at least one prisoner escaped, traffic lights were off and fender-benders escalated, kids were sent home from school, the university was closed, just about everything happened that could happen in a power outage.

Except that it wasn’t an outage. It wasn’t a systemic failure or a technical breakdown, it was done at the order of the Dictator of Detroit, Kevin Orr. It seems that the Dictator had decided to teach the people of Detroit a lesson. For several months, Orr has been preparing to sell off the municipally-owned power plants to private for-profit business. He thought it might be a good time to zap the people so as to soften them up for the sellout (give-away) to corporate interests. Dictators in other countries have done the same sort of thing to create crises so as to confuse and overwhelm the population prior to converting public assets into privately-owned goods. It’s known as “Shock Therapy” and it has worked in Bolivia, Chile, Albania, Poland and Russia. A “shocked” public is rendered fearful and disoriented and thus unwilling to fight or protest.

Lest one thinks I am engaged in journalistic hyperbole in describing Kevin Orr as the Dictator of Detroit, I hasten to add that is not my purpose. Orr is named the Dictator simply because he IS the Dictator of Detroit.

In the State of Michigan, the rabid Right captured the Legislature and a crook became the Governor. One item in Fascist program authorized the Governor to declare any elected local government to be in a State of Emergency, depose the elected officials and appoint an “emergency manager” to run the city or county or school district. The emergency manager is subject to no check or balance and reports to no one except the Governor. The “manager” is empowered to make or break any contract, fire any employee, sell off any public asset or resource, levy taxes or rebate taxes, make backroom deals or whatever meets his fancy. While not expressly empowered to shut off the power, there is no prohibition on his doing so, and he did.

He cannot be sued, he cannot be held accountable. He is Shah-in-Shah, Tsar of All, Absolute Despot and Grand Poobah. This is the future of local government in the United States (BTW much the same model already in use in China) and will be the goal of the Corporateer-led astro-turfed Tea Parties once the U.S. Senate is secured in the very next election.

FREEDOM is SLAVERY – DEMOCRACY is DICTATORSHIP – And all animals are equal except the pigs are just more so *

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* References to George Orwell’s 1984 and his Animal Farm, you figure it out

Today, Michigan, Tomorrow the Nation

RICK SNYDER, Gauleiter * for Michigan, has abolished democratic government in that state’s largest city, Detroit, as he has done for Royal Oak Township, Hamtramck, Highland Park, Flint, the Village of Three Oaks, Allen Park, Pontiac, Ecorse, and Benton Harbor, as well as Detroit Public Schools, Highland Park Schools, and Muskegon Heights Schools. The State Gauleiter has appointed local dictators ** who under Michigan’s emergency law have the power to abolish departments of government, breach public contracts, fire workers, sell public assets, repeal laws and promulgate new laws by decree.

It is probably not too surprising to note that the local governments taken over have not been those in predominantly White communities but rather in cities and public schools comprised of African-Americans. The Republican Party is working to purge voting rolls of Black voters and, as we learned earlier this week, have their Judicial stooges gunning to overturn the cornerstone of the nation’s Civil Rights laws, the Voting Rights Act.

It is surprising that the mainstream media has given very little attention to the dismantling of democratic government in Michigan. If this had happened in Russia, Iran or China,  the Media would be giving it non-stop coverage and the Obama Administration would be seeking a United Nations resolution in condemnation. But it is happening in the United States. The very foundation of American democracy is local self-government and the fact that it has been so easily discarded portends ill for the nation at large.

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* “Gauleiter” is the term Nazi Germany gave to provincial governors. It seems to be the appropriate title for Governor Snyder as well.

** “Dictator” is accurate and is not hyperbole. A public official who has absolute power and is subject to no legal constraint as are the “Emergency Financial Managers” appointed under this Law are dictators.

The Real Meaning of a So-called “Right to Work” Law

RtW

The Republican-dominated Michigan Legislature is considering imposing a “Right to Work” law on Michigan workers. The modern Union was born in Michigan and the Repugnanticans are seeking to kill it there. This is all done under the guise of “freedom” with its advocates contending that they are defending the freedom of workers to not pay union dues. Would they also allow shareholders of Corporations to opt out of paying for the massive political contributions bestowed on favored candidates? Why should a shareholder be forced to forego profits that are then distributed to political stooges? It appears that the Repugs are only concerned for the “freedom” of workers and not the freedom of shareholders.

What’s Goin On In Michigan

They Say “Right to Work”; They Mean “Kill the Union”

There is an effort afoot to make Michigan a “right to
work” state. Unfortunately, most citizens are unaware
of what “right to work” means or the implications if
such a law is passed. Our purpose here is to explain
the law, map the arguments for and against, and
describe potential effects for Michigan should such a
proposal become law.

To begin, the term “right to work” (hereafter RTW) is a
misnomer. RTW has nothing to do with the right of a
person to seek and accept gainful employment. Rather,
RTW laws prohibit a labor union and employer from
negotiating union security clauses. What are union
security clauses? Union security clauses are contract
provisions that regulate the collection of union dues.
In non-RTW states, such as Michigan, the parties are
free to negotiate a range of union security options.
Unions typically prefer “union shop” terms that require
every person benefiting from union representation to
pay union dues. In RTW states, the parties are barred
from negotiating union security clauses, making the
default the “open shop,” where the payment of dues is
optional for workers represented by the union. Between
these two policy poles are arrangements that require
represented persons to pay a proportion of full dues,
and even to allow objectors to unionization to
contribute dues to charity. Such arrangements are,
however, also proscribed under the RTW proposal before
Michigan.

Labor unions are nearly universal in their opposition
to RTW laws, and their argument is straightforward:
each person that benefits directly from union
representation should pay their fair share of the cost
of that representation. In the very least, represented
persons should pay a dues amount to cover the expense
of negotiating and administering the labor agreement
(what are referred to as collective bargaining
activities). For unions, this is just since, by law,
they are required to represent all persons within a
bargaining unit. It is critical to appreciate that
although unions have some input into the composition of
the bargaining unit, they cannot exclude persons that
simply do not want unionization.

It is the National Labor Relations Board, or similar
agency at the state level, that holds final judgment
over bargaining unit membership. Determination is based
on “community of interest” criteria (e.g. similar
skills, proximity, and so forth). Any job meeting those
criteria is included, regardless of how a particular
individual holding a job feels about unionization.
Then, if a majority of workers in the bargaining unit
elect to unionize, union leaders must represent all
unit members fairly and without prejudice.

Supporters of RTW laws advance two major arguments.
First is that RTW laws make a state more attractive to
investment, and that passage of RTW law will lead to
job growth. While such statements may sound attractive
to a state that is facing economic hardship, the
evidence here is in dispute. Like Michigan, nearly
every state in the union has lost manufacturing jobs
over the last six to eight years, but it is unclear
whether the rates of job loss are related to RTW laws.
Our economic problems in Michigan are due primarily to
the woes in the auto industry, which RTW would not fix.
When making location decisions businesses rate factors
such as the quality of the regional workforce, the
regulatory environment, and tax incentives before ever
considering RTW laws.

The second and main argument for RTW is rooted in
libertarian ideology: individuals should not be
required to financially support any collective, unions
in this case, against their will. This “free
association” position focuses on the inherently
coercive practice of demanding a sacrifice from all
that benefit from a collective endeavor. Coercion
exists when an individual objects to the purpose or
activities of the collective, yet is unable to withhold
their support. In the U.S., a workplace becomes
unionized when a majority of the employees in a
bargaining unit petition for union representation. This
“50 percent plus 1” method of determination almost
guarantees the presence of a minority group that did
not want a union. Further, in many instances a person
gains union coverage by accepting employment at a
worksite that is already unionized, without ever having
the opportunity to vote for or against unionization. In
a non-RTW state, a labor union and employer can agree
to a union security clause that requires all covered
persons to pay dues to finance collective bargaining
activities. In such situations, someone seeking to
avoid paying dues to the union has three options: exit
their job, convince union leadership to negotiate an
open shop, or persuade fellow workers to decertify the
union. Given that the last two outcomes are hard to
achieve, the most viable option for dissenters is to
work elsewhere. Thus, the term “right to work” means,
in its elongated form, the right to work in a unionized
setting, and reap the benefits of collective
representation, without having to contribute toward the
cost of obtaining those benefits.

And the benefits are indisputable. Depending on the
occupation, unionized workers earn wages that are ten
to forty percent higher than their nonunion
counterparts. The positive differential for other forms
of compensation, such as health care insurance and
pensions, is even greater. Perhaps more important than
economics, however, are matters involving justice.
Nearly all union contracts feature an informal form of
due process: a grievance procedure that ends in final
and binding arbitration through which unions resolve
disputes over the contract and employer discipline. As
such, in most union settings an employer must show
proof that a worker committed a wrongdoing in order to
discharge them. By contrast, in a non-union setting
workers are “at will” and can be discharged for any
reason (or none at all) that is not proscribed by
federal law.

It is important to note these benefits, because while
promoting free association and individual liberty sound
noble, the use of such concepts to advance RTW
legislation belie a less lofty motive: to undermine the
economic and political power of wage-earners.

As the financiers of the RTW program are well-aware,
when workers act collectively they gain power at work
and in society. In states that have passed RTW
legislation, the wages and benefits of all workers,
union and non-union, are lower than national averages.

One reason is that the gains by unionized workers spill
into the non-union sectors through the so-called
“threat effect”: in the presence of a strong regional
union movement, employers with a non-union workforce
will raise wages and benefits to discourage employees
from unionizing. Remove the threat and non-union
employers have greater latitude to lower compensation,
to require workers to perform dangerous tasks or work
in unhealthy environs, or to treat workers without
dignity. This is the hidden agenda behind the RTW
effort: strengthen the hand of employers by passing a
law that weakens the vanguard institutions promoting
economic and social equity for wage-earners. In this
sense, RTW is both a bald attack on organized labor as
well as a veiled assault on wageearners.

To understand how RTW laws weaken organized labor it
useful to couch this discussion in theory. Social
scientists that study collective behavior often refer
to the “collective action problem” for movement
development. It begins with the premise that any
collective endeavor needs resources such as volunteer
effort, money, or other assets to succeed.
Unfortunately, individuals that stand to enjoy the
fruits of the collective also have an incentive to
avoid making any contribution, especially if they
believe the collective will succeed without their
support. With too many “free riders,” of course, the
collective becomes resource-starved, causing it to
under-perform or fail. To minimize this problem, rules
are necessary that limit the ability of an individual
to shirk their obligation to the collective. There are
many examples of this phenomenon in society, but the
most obvious is taxation for funding public services.
Politicians may debate the level of tax, how taxes are
collected, or how taxes are spent, but there is no
question that it would be a disaster to allow the
payment of taxes to be optional. Compulsory taxation is
necessary to ensure the adequate financing of public
services.

Similarly, for organized labor, union security
provisions are the rules that resolve the collective
action problem. A union shop simply mandates that
everyone pays their fair share. Open shop arrangements,
on the other hand, are problematic because they present
incentives for employees to refrain from contributing
to the union, and “free ride” on the sacrifices of
dues-paying members. Ultimately the financial support
necessary to operate a union is undermined.

So what are the predictable consequences if Michigan
becomes a RTW state? To answer that question, we need
to first map how unions affect our society. The most
mentioned role that unions play is in the economic
system, as a bargaining agent for workers. As described
above, unions use their collective power to gain a more
equitable share from production, and also to negotiate
rules that improve the level of justice at work. Under
RTW laws, existing unions would direct resources toward
internal member mobilizing in an effort to retain this
role. This redirection of resources, however, would
mean fewer funds for new member organizing, and
Michigan would likely experience a diminished threat
effect. A second recognized role for labor is in the
political system. Labor unions have a long history of
pursuing legislation that benefits all wage-earners:
higher minimum wage laws, universal health care, health
and safety protections, to name a few. Union’s leverage
to achieve gains in these areas is directly related to
their ability to mobilize support during the political
cycle. As such, unions operate telephone banks, engage
in member education, and canvass communities to inform
their members and the public to get out the vote. Under
RTW laws we can expect resources for these activities
to diminish, resulting in lower voter turnout among the
working class and a political system that is less
responsive to Michigan’s non-rich. Finally, labor
unions are active in civic affairs. As human
institutions embedded in our communities, unions
frequently organize collections on behalf of the less
fortunate, they are among the largest givers to
charitable organizations, such as the United Way, and
they even occasionally fund popular community
activities, such as little league teams. Under RTW, we
should expect this role to decline.

Unions are certainly not flawless. They are
organizations that breathe a measure of democratic life
into an otherwise autocratic corporate culture. And as
democracies, unions can embrace the best and the worst
of human intentions. On balance though, labor unions
have an admirable history. In every capitalist economy,
the standards for economic, political and social equity
are owed in part to a vibrant, independent union
movement. Consider this final thought, fellow citizens,
as you contemplate whether Michigan is to become a RTW
state.

— By Roland Zullo, Research Scientist

Institute for Labor and Industrial Relations
University of Michigan
http://irlee.umich.edu/Publications/Docs/RightToWorkInMichigan.pdf

Koch-heads Crush Unions in Michigan

Excerpt from COMMON DREAMS (see link) —

Michigan’s Republican-dominated legislature on Thursday passed conservative, anti-worker, anti-women measures–controversial right-to-work legislation and a conscience clause that allows health care providers to deny services–sparking outrage and protests from Democrats and union members and leading police to use “chemical munitions” on protesters.

The Michigan State Capitol.  Protesters packed the Capitol building, news agencies report, as right-wing Gov. Rick Snyder and Republicans announced the right-to-work legislation.  Some of the protesters who were inside the building attempted to get to the chamber floor and were met with a chemical assault. The Detroit Free Press reports:

“When several of the individuals rushed the troopers, they used chemical munitions to disperse the crowd,” [Michigan State Police Inspector Gene Adamczyk] said. “It would be a lot worse if someone gets hurt and I failed to act.”

The House passed the first of three right-to-work bills in a 58-52 vote.

Right-to-work laws mean dues cannot be required from non-union employees.  Touted as “workplace freedom” by supporters, unions see them as an assault on their bargaining power and an attempt at further weakening the power of organized labor.

The Lansing State Journal reports that the right-to-work legislation was passed “after House Democrats walked off the chamber floor to protest the Capitol not being opened to the public.”

Americans for Prosperity, which the Detroit Free Press describes as “the conservative non-profit organization that funded Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s efforts to strip that state’s public employee unions of their collective bargaining rights,” and was founded by the notorious Koch brothers, supported the legislation.

Constitutional Protection for Labor

Michigan Labor proposes to make Labor Rights part of State’s Constitution

After a long series of coordinated attacks on the collective
bargaining rights of working families in states like
Wisconsin, Ohio, Florida and elsewhere, union members and their allies in Michigan are being proactive. They have placed a referendum on the ballot, known as Proposal 2, which would make the right to collective bargaining part of the state’s constitution and would ban “right to work” for less laws.

No longer content to hold off attacks on the rights of working families or spend enormous amounts of time and money to overturn such laws, Michigan residents decided to cut off such assaults permanently before they can even get started.

If the referendum is approved, working families would have a voice in bargaining for fair wages, benefits and working
conditions. If it fails, corporate interests would have
significantly more influence over workplace conditions than
the workers who have to live with them.

From AFL-CIO Blog

A Vagina Dialogue

Rep. Lisa Brown, a duly elected member of the Michigan House of Representatives spoke out in opposition to a Republican proposal to ban abortions. In the course of her talk she used the word “vagina”, which is not surprising when addressing an issue involving a woman’s body. The Republican majority was so offended that they banned Ms Brown from speaking on the floor of the House.

Now this is certainly a violation of the basic principles of democracy. A majority in a Legislature cannot forbade another member from participation. But this is the State of Michigan, democracy is no more a part of the political system there than it is in Syria. Michigan is the State that gives the Governor the power to appoint dictators to takeover local governments. The State-appointed dictators (yes, they use the word “overseer” and not  dictator but no dictator in modern times has ever admitted to being a dictator), the dictators are then able to revoke any ordinance, break any public contract and sell or transfer public property at will without due process of law. The dictators can displace elected mayors and city councils and rule by decree. This is not hyperbole, this is Michigan.

If you want to see the future of what would be Republican America, look to Michigan. Opponents will be banned from speaking, elections overturned, due process invalidated and public property stolen.

If Ms Brown can’t say “VAGINA”, how long will we be able to call the Michigan Republicans, “DICKS”, “ASSES” and “HOs”.

Michigan Junta Out to Kill Public Schools; Pays Off Hitman

Michigan is one of those States taken over by a Republican junta intent on using the economic crisis as an excuse for destroying the public school system. Aided by think tanks bought and paid-for by billionaire ideologues, the State’s ruling clique has conducted an unending propaganda battle against public services, and public employees in general as well as teachers in specific.

All of the State’s problems are due to greedy incompetent government employees. And all will be solved by empowering the profit-seekers who once given publicly funded resources will bestow efficiency and effectiveness like pixie dust.

The State Teachers Union has made dramatic concessions in salaries and benefits to keep their jobs and to maintain public schools. But their sacrifice means little and is being used to weaken the last remaining advocate for public education against the attack of the privatizers.

After giving and giving, the teachers found pink slips for over 5000 of their colleagues. The curt response from the junta, “We can’t afford them”. Meanwhile, the commissar appointed to oversee schools in trouble, upon a removal of the professional school administrators and a sidetracking of democratically elected school boards, was granted a $ 1.5 MILLION contract!

Yes, in a State which can no longer afford its teachers, the State finds enough in its budget to payout over a MILLION DOLLARS for an education CZAR. This Czar’s comp package of bonuses, extras and boons includes a minimum annual salary of $ 475,000 or more than twice the highest paid school superintendent and more than what is paid the President of the United States.

The Republican junta is paying its hitman more to kill public schools than it was willing to pay to save them.
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SOURCE: http://www.good.is/post/while-teachers-take-pay-cuts-their-boss-rakes-in-1-5-million/

If You Can’t Collect Unemployment Comp Then You Can’t Be Unemployed — Problem Solved

Rick Snyder, Michigan Fuhrer, has come up with a novel jobs initiative — cut unemployment benefits, from NY Times March 25, 2011 —

Michigan, whose unemployment rate has topped 10 percent longer than that of any other state, is about to set another record: its new Republican governor, Rick Snyder, signed a law Monday that will lead the state to pay fewer weeks of unemployment benefits next year than any other state.

Gov. Rick Snyder of Michigan, signed a law that made his state the first to cut back the unemployment benefit from 26 weeks.
Democrats and advocates for the unemployed expressed outrage that a such a hard-hit state will become the most miserly when it comes to how long it pays benefits to those who have lost their jobs. All states currently pay 26 weeks of unemployment benefits, before extended benefits paid by the federal government kick in. Michigan’s new law means that starting next year, when the federal benefits are now set to end, the state will stop paying benefits to the jobless after just 20 weeks. The shape of future extensions is unclear.