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MI Workers Collect Signatures to Protect Collective Bargaining, GOPers Taking PLA Ban to Court, Gary Peters Gathers Union Endorsements for his House Campaign

AP, Greg DeRuiter

Michigan is still clawing its way back from the depravity of the end of the last decade. The state’s major cities are a shell of their former selves and although one of their major industries is experiencing a resurgence, others are still treading water. The uncertainty that becomes commonplace in downtrodden communities allows for exploitation by the powers that be, who know that working men and women in Michigan are too worried about how they are going to put food on their tables to take to the streets and protests regressive measures.

Since the 2010 election of Governor Rick Snyder, workers, specifically union workers, have been under attack from their own government. But now, Michigan workers are beginning to organize and demand that their public servants remember who it is they serve. Perhaps inspired by neighboring Wisconsin, workers are hoping to collect the 322,609 signatures needed to get a proposed amendment to the state’s constitution on November’s ballot. The amendment would make joining a union a protected right:

The ballot initiative would add a section to the state Constitution outlining the people’s right to “organize together to form, join or assist labor organizations, and to bargain collectively with a public or private employer” as permitted under federal statute.

Additionally, the new language would prohibit the Legislature from enacting laws restricting collective bargaining.

“Now more than ever, workers need the right to speak up to protect our wages, our benefits, and our voice – and that’s what this proposal is all about,” John Armelagos, a registered nurse from Ann Arbor. “Michigan workers helped create the middle class, and now we need to protect our collective bargaining rights to help rebuild our economy.”

The campaign, known as “Protect Our Jobs,” looks to stop the Michigan GOP’s attack on unions and collective bargaining before it goes any further. According to the “Protect Our Jobs” website, there are currently 80 bills pending in Michigan that are an affront to workers rights. United Auto Workers (UAW) President Bob King has announced that his union supports the ballot initiative:

King said the union has been “out in front” on the push to amend the Michigan Constitution to protect collective bargaining eights.

“We hope that Michigan can lead what will then be movements around the United States to guarantee workers’ rights to organize and to collective bargaining,” he said.

Organizers have until July 9th to collect signatures.

The Michigan GOP is adding fuel to the disenchanted workers’ fire by announcing this week that they will fight the ruling that a law banning Project Labor Agreements on state-funded construction projects is unconstitutional. Project Labor Agreements assure worker safety and pay standards and force all involved to abide by collective bargaining for the duration of the PLA. Unions often support PLAs because they include local hiring and diversity hiring standards as well.

The original anti-worker law, Public Act 98, prohibited public entities from mandating PLAs. Last week, a U.S. District Court Judge in Detroit struck down the law saying that it violated federal laws. The decision was considered a victory for workers. Now, Attorney General Bill Schuette says the state plans to appeal the court’s decision.

The Michigan Fair and Open Competition in Governmental Construction Act allows all qualified contractors to bid on public contracts and not be otherwise prohibited from doing so under special bidding provisions requiring or prohibiting pre-hiring or project labor agreements (PLAs). Public contracts would include state, local government, school, college and university construction projects using state tax dollars.

Union organizers that filed a federal lawsuit that overturned the act said the law makes project labor agreements (PLAs) that the plaintiffs are a part of null and void, according to courthouse news service. Union organizers said PLAs are used to standardize shift schedules, breaks and travel times to streamline work and deter strikes on joint projects.

Meanwhile, politicians are beginning to rack up union endorsements that they hope will help them get to Lansing next year, to beat back the multi-pronged assault on workers.

Bloomfield Township Democrat Gary Peters, who is running for U.S. Congress in the newly drawn 14th district, has racked up a total of 16 endorsements so far in the campaign, including three recent additions: the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, the United Steelworkers District 2 and the Utility Workers Union of America, AFL-CIO. This adds to an impressive list that already includes the postal workers, communications workers, iron workers, building and construction trades council, Teamsters and United Auto Workers. Many Unions see Peters as a man who will fight for them and their members if he can make it to the House:

“The working families of Michigan need a leader in Washington with the clear vision, ardent commitment and steadfast courage to stand up and fight for them,” D. Michael Langford, president of the Utility Workers Union of America, said in a statement from Peters’ campaign.

Due to population loss, the state of Michigan recently dropped one congressional seat. Gerrymandering by the Republican-led statehouse forces Peters to face off with incumbent Rep. Hansen Clarke in an August 7th primary. The endorsements are likely to bode well for Peters in the union heavy district.


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