HVCLC 2015 Endorsements for Ann Arbor City Council

At the HVCLC’s monthly delegates’ meeting, on July 7th, 2015, delegates unanimously endorsed the Committee on Political Education’s recommendations for endorsements for Ann Arbor City Council. The four candidates endorsed are:

Ward 1: Sabra Briere
Ward 3: Zachary Ackerman
Ward 4: Jack Eaton
Ward 5: Chip Smith

The process by which we came to these endorsements was as follows:

  • Our President first contacted all Democratic candidates for Ann Arbor City Council positions and invited them, if they wished to be considered for our endorsement, to fill out an on-line survey.
  • Five candidates, of the 8 involved in a contested primary, filled out our survey. The HVCLC’s Committee on Political Education (COPE), which includes all members of our Executive Committee plus other delegates interested in participating, read each of these responses carefully.
  • We then met briefly with each of the five candidates who filled out our survey. This allowed us to ask follow-up questions and gave the candidates a chance to add to what they wrote in the survey.
  • With this information, supplemented with additional research where we thought it useful, the COPE made recommendations to the HVCLC’s Delegate body at our July 7th monthly meeting.
  • The HVCLC Delegates discussed and voted on the COPE’s recommendations, with the results you see above.

The HVCLC will be sending a letter to all affiliate members who live in Ann Arbor, conveying these endorsements and explaining the process by which we arrived at them. We will follow up on that mailing with phone banking. If you would like to help with this or related work, please let me know at e.ian.robinson@gmail.com

Growing Together or Drifting Apart report on Washtenaw County Inequality Released

Read Growing Together or Drifting Apart? Economic Well-Being in Washtenaw County’s new ‘Knowledge Economy’ (PDF)

Press conference for Washtenaw County inequality report: David Reynolds, Ypsilanti Mayer Amanda Edmonds, Pastor Jeff Harrold, and United Way Washtenaw's Pam Smith

Press conference for release of report

In March 2014, HVCLC President Ian Robinson, who is also a Research Scientist in Sociology, joined with a team of five other University of Michigan scholars – Tom Weisskopf, Howard Kimeldorf, David Reynolds, Roland Zullo, and Denise Bailey — to investigate what had happened to wages, poverty and economic inequality in Washtenaw County since 2005, and where we could expect those trends to go. On March 30, 2015, the Center for Labor and Community Studies, UM-Dearborn released, “Growing Together or Drifting Apart?” What the study found was very disturbing:

  • Income inequality in our county is on the rise.
  • Inequality is growing not just because the well-paid have experienced more rapid pay increases, but because at least three quarters of our county’s employees have seen their real pay – after taking account of inflation — decline.
  • This fall in real earnings has increased the share of Washtenaw County’s population who must be considered poor: in 2013, one third of workers and one quarter of households in our county did not earn enough to meet basic needs as defined in the Michigan United Way’s 2014 ALICE report.
  • Unless we do things, differently, the future looks no better: 9 out the 10 fastest growing jobs currently pay too little to meet the basic needs specified in the United Way report.

The significance of these results is clear: Past policies have worked for some, but they have failed far too many in our community. If we want a prosperous future for our county, we can’t keep doing what we’ve been doing.

The trends these scholars documented are found in most if not all American communities, and they have been growing since the mid-1970s. Should we be surprised to find the same trends here in our county? Perhaps not, but with three major, high-functioning institutions of higher education, and two top-notch hospital systems, we are on the cutting edge of the new knowledge economy. Some commentators think that if we can just shift Michigan into the place where Washtenaw County already is, everything will be fine. The study demonstrates that if we did that, Michigan would be better off than it is today, but things would not be fine at all.

The report makes just two recommendations. First, that we constitute a Task Force –comprised of community organization leaders, organized labor, business, elected officials and social science researchers — to investigate how other U.S. city and county governments have responded to the same challenges. Second, that the Task Force make recommendations about what our cities and our county can and ought to do to reverse these trends. That Task Force has now been constituted. Its members (in alphabetical order) are:

Mary Jo Callan (Director, Office of Community & Economic Development, Washtenaw         County)
Keta Cowan (Chief Executive Officer, Synod Community Services)
Amanda Edmonds (Mayor, City of Ypsilanti)
Chris Good (Director, Think Local First)
Jeff Harrold (Pastor, New Beginnings Community Church of Washtenaw County and Chair of Washtenaw Regional Organizing Coalition’s Education Action Team)
Jeff Irwin (Michigan House of Representatives, District 53)
Sean Duval (Vice-Chair, Workforce and Econ Development, Workforce Development Board; CEO of Golden Limousine)
Bob King (International President Emeritus, United Auto Workers)
Andy LaBarre (Commissioner, Washtenaw County Commission)
Rick McHugh (Staff Attorney, Midwest office, National Employment Law Project)
Yousef Rabhi (Commissioner, Washtenaw County Commission)
David Reynolds (Labor Studies Center, UM-Dearborn; Chair, Doing Development Differently in Metro Detroit)
Ian Robinson (President, Huron Valley Central Labor Council; Lecturer & Research Scientist, Dept of Sociology and Residential College, University of Michigan)
Paul Saginaw (Co-Founder and Co-owner, Zingerman’s Enterprises)
Pam Smith (President, United Way of Washtenaw County)
Sandi Smith (Co-owner, Trillium Real Estate)
Chuck Warpehoski (Ann Arbor City Council & Exec Dir, Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice)

UPDATE: For more about the inequality report, read Eclectablog’s take.

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.