Solidarity with Workers Opposing Right to Work in Wisconsin

Like Governor Snyder did in Michigan in 2012, Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin is now attempting to ram a “Right To Work” bill through the Wisconsin state legislature.

Ruth Conniff in the Madison-based magazine The Progressive  (Scott Walker: Big, Bold, and Wrong , 2/24/15), writes:

“Sticking it to unions [..] depresses wages and investment in public schools. In the twenty-five right-to-work states, the Economic Policy Institute reports that average wages for both union and non-union workers are $1500 a year lower than in states that don’t have right-to-work laws (“right to work” means all workers are entitled to union benefits but don’t have to pay union dues, effectively shutting down the power of unions to fund their organizing work.)

Right to work states also spend 30 percent less on education.

Kevin Gundlach, president of the South Central Federation of Labor, disputes the idea that ordinary citizens of Wisconsin support Walker’s union-busting politics.

“We spent months traveling all over Wisconsin, talking to union and non-union workers in every corner of the state, and not one person talked about Act 10 or right-to-work as a priority,” Gundlach says.”

Huron Valley Central Labor Council members can follow (and participate in) the situation in Wisconsin on social media:

Facebook: Citizen Action Wisconsin , Wisconsin AFL-CIO , Defeat “Right to Work” in Wisconsin

Twitter Hashtags to watch: #wiunion #wipolitics , #righttowork

You can also donate to the legal defense fund for the Wisconsin AFL-CIO here .

HVCLC Movement Building Workshop: Why We Need It & What Affiliates Can Do

We learned two things last November: first, while a number of dedicated volunteers and union staff worked their butts off for the Worker Voice effort, we didn’t have enough member volunteers to get our effort to the level we needed to win the Governor or narrow the gap in the state legislature; and second, because most if not all Michigan unions are going to see their contracts expire before we get out from under “Right to Work” legislation, the threat of declining membership and falling dues revenues is real.

Both of these challenges can be overcome, and both have the same solution: organizing many more member volunteers / activists. With a team of such activists in each of our locals, we can have one-on-one organizing conversations with others our bargaining units on a scale that we can never achieve if we rely on staff alone.   Member-to-member organizing conversations are the way we persuade members who may be wavering about whether to stay in the union when RTW comes; they are also the way we get members who share our values but have been standing on the sidelines to get active.   Organizing conversations are labor intensive – we need a lot of person-power to do them – but there is no substitute and no alternative if we are going to rebuild the power of our labor movement in this county.

Our Feb 7th workshop will be the first of a series of HVCLC workshops designed to achieve this purpose.   The people thus recruited are encouraged to attend our next workshop (held about 2 months later); they then go out and recruit as well.   Member activists who came to the first workshop will also be encouraged to come to the subsequent ones – they already have the initial member organizing training – but we can do follow-up / more advanced skill development with them. We will also encourage everyone to come and participate in the March Planning Retreat.

Our Workshop planning group – Ian Robinson, David Reynolds, Steve Gulick, Grace Trudell, Tad Wysor, Sheila Pedersen, John Ware, Kelly Anthony and Ron Motsinger – has produced the Workshop Agenda.

What we need beyond a good design and workshop facilitators is a lot of participants! I’m asking leaders and activists in all of our affiliates to identify at least two of your members or leaders who you think are interested in organizing work or that you’d like to move in that direction.

As painful as it was, November highlighted areas where we need to and can strengthen our labor-based progressive movement. It’s not all about Lansing. We can do a lot right here on our home turf, where we are considerably stronger than we are in Lansing. I’m excited about the new potential for a united local labor movement, with new allies and creative initiatives, to quickly begin turning the tide. I’m looking forward to working with you and your local as we take these movement-building steps together. Please let us in the HVCLC leadership know how we can help.

Help Restore the Prevailing Wage in Livingston County!


What the Board Did

On Monday, August 4, a bare majority of the Livingston County Board of Commissioners voted to abolish their prevailing wage ordinance. The measure had come out of the Board’s Finance Committee 9-0 the week before, and was on the Commission’s consent agenda, but nine community members spoke against it, causing it to be removed from the consent agenda. Operating Engineers has a 550 acre training facility in the county that pays $80,000 a year in taxes and has a huge economic impact with all the people they bring in for training. Their spokespeople were very persuasive. One commissioner said she could go either way, but ended up voting yes (against prevailing wage). In the end, the vote was 5 to 4 in favor of the following resolution:

RESOLUTION NO: 2014-08-236
WHEREAS, Michigan is now a “right to work” state allowing contractors and workers alike to participate freely in the construction industry.
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that all future construction projects funded by Livingston County taxpayers will not require prevailing wage.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Board of Commissioners will consider waiving this prohibition for any future construction projects if Federal or State funding sources mandate prevailing wage.

How the individual Commissioners voted
Yes (to get rid of the prevailing wage requirement): Kate Lawrence, District 1; William Green, District 2; David Domas, District 3; Ronald VanHouten, District 4; Donald Parker, District 5.
No (to retain the prevailing wage requirement): Steve Williams, District 6; Carol Griffiths, District 7 (chair); Dennis Dolan, District 8 (former plumber), and Gary Childs, District 9.
Commissioner Domas was the prime mover on the Yes side, strongly supported by Commissioner Parker, who disingenuously claimed that any business that wants to bid prevailing wage is still free to do so. Among the Commissioners, it was Commissioner Dolan he did most of the arguing against it, but Commissioner Childs was also a strong opponent. It was Commissioner Kate Lawrence, former mayor of Brighton, who said she could go either way.

This is not over!

We have a real chance of moving the Commission to revisit this issue, with at least one Commissioner changing position. Whether or not that happens, the Livingston Democratic Party is running a candidate against one of the ring-leaders of this misguided policy. We should strongly support that candidate.

What you can do

If you are a resident of Livingston County, please directly contact the Commissioner from your District. Here is a link to the contact information for the Commissioners: And here is a link to the district map in case you are not sure which District you are in:
Whether or not you live in Livingston County, please sign our petition in support of restoring the prevailing wage in Livingston County.

Why is getting rid of the prevailing wage a terrible idea?

The prevailing wage is a long-standing policy with a proven track record across this country. It might seem that the county will save money by abolishing it, but you don’t get something for nothing. The floor set by the prevailing wage enables workers and contractors that choose to invest in skills development and higher quality production to compete with contractors who could otherwise undercut their business by paying lower wages and skimping on training in order to offer lower bids. If those more willing to invest in the workforce keep losing bids, the result will be a vicious circle in which all contractors feel constrained to cut back on wages and investment in training becomes falls as well. Less training means more accidents on the job site. It also means lower quality work. For the public, that means buildings and roads that are less safe.

Lower wages also mean that the local building trades and other workers who benefit from the floor set by the prevailing wage – and are also community members – have less income to spend locally. Let’s not forget that consumer purchasing power is the ultimate job creator: ask any business person how many jobs he or she will be creating if consumer demand for his or her products dries up.

From the county’s point of view, if incomes of local building trades workers and business owners fall, so will property tax values: If the tax base shrinks, then either rates must go up or services must be gut.

Last but certainly not least, undercutting wages high enough to keep working people in the middle class exacerbate income inequality in Livingston County. Income inequality in this country is already at levels we haven’t seen since the 1920s. It is far too high to be healthy for our democracy, because the increasing concentration of income and wealth is associated with concentrated political power as well. As U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis put it, “We can either have democracy in this country or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.”

The Mackinac Center is a big proponent of eliminating the prevailing wage in Michigan, and helps to coordinate the push on Republicans to adopt the plutocracy’s agenda. But if those who love democracy weigh in, we will win. The plutocracy has most of the money, by definition, but we have most of the votes! Let’s show them that in this country and this county the people rule!

Do we have evidence to back the claims we just made?

You bet! For key findings of academic studies that examine the impacts of ending the prevailing wage in other states, and suspending it at the state level in Michigan from 1994-97, see the three-page overview of the evidence developed by the Michigan building trades (PDF).

HVCLC Honor Roll for Primary Election Phone Banking

Over the two week period from July 22 to Aug 2, 2014, 23 members of HVCLC affiliates (and the WCAT), from ten local unions belonging to eight international unions made the time in their busy schedules to do at least one 2.5 hour phone bank shift following up on our letter to 3,100 Washtenaw County union members :

Dave Alber (IATSE Local 395)
Marc Ammerlaan (LEO, AFT-MI Local 6244)
Toni Coral (AFT-MI, Local 1052)
Mark Coryell (AFGE Local 3907)
David Frye (LEO, AFT-MI Local 6244)
Steve Gulick (Iron Workers Local 25)
Nancy Heine (AFSCME, Local 3052)
James Johnson (IBEW Local 252)
Chuck Madenjian (AFGE Local 723)
Carl Martin (TWU Local 171)
Kate Mendeloff (LEO, AFT-MI Local 6244)
Wes Prater (IAFF Local 693)
Ian Robinson (LEO, AFT-MI Local 6244)
Jeanie Robinson (WCAT)
Julie Rowe (AFT-MI)
Deb Schmidt (AFSCME Local 3052)
Rob Sulewski (LEO, AFT-MI Local 6244)
Laura Thomas (LEO, AFT-MI Local 6244)
Joe Walls (LEO, AFT-MI Local 6244)
Sandra Walls (LEO, AT-MI Local 6244)
John Ware (GEO, AFT-MI Local 3550)
Tad Wysor (AFGE Local 3907)
Robin Zheng (GEO, AFT-MI Local 3550)

When we help to get pro-labor candidates elected to public office, we strengthen our local labor movement! Thank you all for your hard work on behalf of the cause.

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.