HVCLC Candidate Endorsements – August 2014

The Primary elections are less than one month away! On Tuesday, August 5th, you have an opportunity – and, we would argue, a duty – to vote in the Primaries. As you know, for many Washtenaw County races, whoever wins the Democratic primary is very likely to win the November election. So it’s vital that we support worker-friendly candidates this August 5th.

How do we identify such candidates? The Huron Valley Central Labor Council (HVCLC) gathered surveys from 31 candidates for political and judicial office. We read their answers and then we met with each of them over two evenings. Based on this evidence, the HVCLC’s Committee on Political Education (COPE) made recommendations that were discussed and voted on at the HVCLC’s monthly Delegates meeting in June.

In this way, we came up with the Primary endorsements listed below. (We also endorsed a number of excellent candidates who do not face Primaries. These are listed in on our Non-Primary Endorsements page.)

Congressional Districts
7th CD Pam Byrnes
12th CD Debbie Dingell

City of Ann Arbor
Mayor Chris Taylor
City Council Ward 1 Don Adams
City Council Ward 2 Kirk Westphal
City Council Ward 3 Julie Grand

City of Ypsilanti
Mayor Peter J. Murdock
City Council Ward 3 Brian P. Robb

Washtenaw County Commission
4th District Felicia Brabec
6th District Ronnie Peterson
7th District Andy LaBarre
8th District Yousef Rabhi
9th District Conan Smith

Judicial Offices
Washtenaw County Probate Court Tracy Van den Bergh
22nd Circuit Court Patrick Conlin

To make it easier to vote, we encourage you to consider voting by absentee ballot. Here is a web link to the application form (PDF):

If you meet one or more of the qualifying conditions, you can fill out and mail this form to your city or township clerk. Your request for a ballot must be received by 2pm, July 26, 2014, the Saturday before primary election day. But please do it sooner to allow for delivery time.

If your request is received in time, an absentee ballot will be mailed to you. When you get it, fill it out, put it back in the mail and you’ve voted in the Primary! All absentee ballots must be received by the Clerk’s Office no later than 8pm on Election Day. Again, getting it in the mail well before that would be good!

Also, if you have a spouse or partner, or voting-age children in your household, please share this information with them. We are stronger when our whole families vote together.

Last but not least, we need your help to make sure that we do not get a repeat of the disaster of the off-year election of 2010, when one million registered Democrats failed to vote. You don’t need to belong to a union to be part of the labor movement. If you want to help boost turn-out for the pro-labor candidates we have endorsed, please go to this web site, where you can see – and sign up for – the times when union members and labor movement activists will be phone banking:

Questions? Don’t hesitate to get in touch with Steve Gulick (734-355-7443), Ron Motsinger (734-255-1426), Tad Wysor (734-883-3225), or Wes Prater (734-944-0808).

In Solidarity,

Ian Robinson
President, HVCLC

Steve Gulick
Director, HVCLC COPE

Follow-Up Meeting on AAPS Privatization Monday 7-7-14, 8 PM

The Ann Arbor Public Schools Privatization Working Groups established last Monday are meeting tonight, Monday 7-7-14 at 8pm at the LEO/GEO offices (339 E. Liberty, Suite 340).

We will meet together as a general assembly so that everyone hears the updates. If there are questions of strategy that need discussion as a result of what we learn in these updates, we can deal with that next. Then we can re-assemble into our working groups and work out the next steps for each group.

Follow-Up Meeting and Background on AAPS Custodian

Join labor and community members for a follow-up meeting to strategize next steps in fighting for Ann Arbor Public Schools custodians:

Monday, June 30th, 8:00 PM
LEO/GEO Office, 339 E. Liberty, Suite #340, Ann Arbor

Here are two documents that provide some background. The first letter outlines the process that has been followed up to now, including what has happened since the Wednesday press conference. The second document contains the current worker co-op proposal.

Letter Re AFSCME Proposal (PDF, 435 KB)

AFSCME Coop Proposal (PDF, 7.8 MB)

Great Turnout for Ann Arbor Public Schools Custodians

On Wednesday July 24, a substantial and diverse group of people — union, community and religious leaders and activists, and a number of candidates running in local and state elections — gathered in front of Ann Arbor’s downtown library to demonstrate our support for the AAPS custodial workers of AFSCME Local 1182. This photo, contributed by Adam Zemke, captures quite a few of us.

It was a great rally, followed by an even more spectacular School Board meeting. Public comment, followed by a direct action Mic Check, won us a meeting Thursday morning 6/25

Union and community members supporting Ann Arbor Public Schools custodians on June 24, 2014.

Union and community members supporting Ann Arbor Public Schools custodians on June 24, 2014. Photo by Adam Zemke.

. We’ll keep you posted as to what comes out of that meeting and what our next steps will be.

Press Conference: Response to Ann Arbor Public Schools Plan to Privatize Custodial Work

The majority of the Ann Arbor School Board surprised and shocked many by voting last week to end the long relationship with the custodial staff and their AFSCME union and instead hire a private company for those services. The decision was hasty and did not allow time for the workers to pursue their idea to form a worker coop that would save the District money and save the jobs of these important members of our school community.

On Friday, an ad hoc committee of union and community activists convened by the Huron Valley Central Labor Council met to assess new developments, talk through possible responses and work out the details. Our goals are to find ways to support the custodial workers, members of AFSCME Local 1182, limit the damage of privatization in this case and prevent others in the future.

This kind of privatization is not just a serious and unnecessary blow to the custodians, but also bad for the students and bad for the community.

We will hold a 6:30 pm press conference this Wednesday, June 25, just outside the Ann Arbor Downtown Library, 343 S 5th Ave, Ann Arbor, followed by a presence at the 7 pm School Board meeting upstairs. There will be brief statements from one of the custodial workers affected by the privatization, a parent, one of the developers of the worker co-op idea, a faith leader and a speaker from the Huron Valley Central Labor Council.

We ask that you set aside the 1.5 hours necessary to join us for the press conference and the first hour of the School Board meeting.

Please let us know if you will come by emailing e.ian.robinson at gmail.com. You can also join the Facebook event.

Challenging AAPS Custodial Privatization – Follow-Up Meeting

Activists from the Huron Valley Central Labor Council and the Washtenaw Community Action Team came together for a very successful meeting Monday night at the LEO/GEO offices. We now have a strategy for responding to the Ann Arbor Public Schools Administration’s effort to privatize custodial services.

We will be meeting again 7 PM this Friday June 20 at the LEO/GEO offices – Suite 340, 339 E. Liberty, Ann Arbor for updates on progress and additional planning.

Please join us if you want to be part of this important effort to defend the collective bargaining rights and living standards of hard working people in Ann Arbor.

Whether or not you can come to this Friday evening’s planning meeting at the LEO/GEO offices, please set aside time on Monday, June 23rd, between 3:30 and 4pm, for a possible action.

And please ask those who you know care about this issue to do the same! The precise nature of the action will be determined at our Friday planning meeting and announced shortly thereafter.

Questions? Contact Ian Robinson (e.ian.robinson at gmail.com)

Challenging AAPS Privatization — Strategy Meeting

Strategy Meeting for Challenging Ann Arbor Public Schools Privatization
MONDAY, June 16, 7pm
LEO/GEO offices, 339 E. Liberty, Suite 340, Ann Arbor

As some of you already know, on June 11, the Ann Arbor Public Schools’ Board voted 5-2 to privatize its custodial services by signing a contract with GCA Services Group, a subsidiary of the Blackstone Group. Only Board members Baskett and Lightfoot voted against the deal.

The Board majority ignored the request that it delay its decision until it could evaluate an alternative proposal, under which current employees would form a worker cooperative and contract with the AAPS for the services that they previously supplied as AAPS employees.

This alternative was supported by the union that represents the affected custodial workers, AFSCME Local 1182, by AFSCME’s state-level Council 25, by AAEA, the union representing Ann Arbor’s public school teachers, by University of Michigan academics such as Roland Zullo, and by parents of public school children such as Rabindar Subbian.

If the Board majority’s decision is allowed to stand, these workers will lose their jobs on July 1. They may apply for jobs with GCA, but the company is under no obligation to give preference to the workers who do so. Even if they do get the work, they will face major pay cuts. Employer contributions to their retirement and their health care will also plummet.

Rejecting the creative response put forward by the union in favor of the same old same old neoliberal prescriptions is exactly the wrong direction for Ann Arbor’s public schools and the community they serve. We’ve been following this kind of misguided policy for almost 40 years now. The result: income is becoming more and more polarized throughout the country and — as we’ll show in a report to be released in August — Washtenaw County is no exception to this rule. Job insecurity is growing at the same time. The School Board’s decision will reinforce this negative trends.

It is clear that Republicans in Lansing want to privatize public education as a whole, and are using annual budget cuts as a weapon for pressuring School Boards across the state to move steadily in this direction. The fundamental problem is the balance of political power in Lansing (and Washington), not the School Board. But we need to hold the School Board accountable for failing to even seriously investigate a better option when it was presented to them. They did not need to behave this way. Lansing cannot be blamed for this failure. They are entitled to have doubts about the cooperative option, but in that case they did not need to decide the issues so precipitously. They could have taken an extra month to help develop and assess the coop option.

The union’s proposal does not pretend that sacrifice by workers can be avoided. Republicans in Lansing have been able to ensure that much. Even under the worker co-op plan, these workers will lose employer pension and health contributions because AAPS will no longer be their employer. That is where the savings to AAPS come from. But at least current employees will have the security of keeping their jobs, at current wage levels. And the community will know that any profits from this process will stay in the county, not disappear into the pockets of wealth out-of-state shareholders.

It is unacceptable that the Board’s majority should refuse to assess properly a serious alternative approach that promises to minimize the damage done by bad budget decisions in Lansing while also meeting the budget goals that the Board must achieve.

What can we – Ann Arbor’s taxpayers, parents, union members, and progressive activists — do about this? Plenty, I think. Possible responses include (1) one or more events designed to raise public consciousness about this bad decision and the alternative to it; (2) supporting up to four AAPS School Board members in the November 2014 elections; and (3) helping to develop and promote an alternative, worker and community-friendly vision of economic development in our region, to piggy-back on reports on growing poverty and inequality that will be released by the United Way and the Huron Valley Central Labor Council in August 2014.

You may well have additional and/or better ideas. Please bring yourself and your ideas to our strategy meeting at the LEO/GEO offices this Monday (June 16th) at 7pm! If you are interested in attending, please email Ian Robinson at e.ian.robinson at gmail.com to let him know. (Rabindar cannot come but he will phone in; if you are in the same situation, let me know!)