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labor unions

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Monday’s Detroit Labor Day parade was a low-key one by historical standards, despite being a high-stakes time for many unions—none more than the United Auto Workers.

The union is going through a tough time. Its leaders are under FBI investigation for possible corruption, as they try to bargain new contracts with Detroit’s three automakers.

Katie Raymond / Michigan Radio

As the Democratic presidential candidates prepare to debate in Detroit over the next two days, hundreds of nursing home care workers have gathered in the city to highlight what they call in an “ongoing care crisis” in that industry.

Beaumont workers rally, call for higher wages

Jul 17, 2019
Lauren Janes / Michigan Radio

Health care workers from three Beaumont hospitals rallied on Wednesday, calling for higher wages and better staffing. Signs read "Put our patients before exec pay."

The SEIU Healthcare union organized the rally. Workers and community members chanted, "If we don't get it, shut it down!"

Downtown Detroit Partnership

Update, Tuesday June 11: A spokeswoman for the SEIU Local 1 chapter says they've still not received a response to the strike vote from SecurAmercia. Still no firm date yet for when the strike might start.

Original post June 10: Last night, security officer Darian Stevens says he had to bike two hours home from work. That’s because he can’t afford a car or an apartment near his job in downtown Detroit.

“We secure billion dollar buildings, and as I’ve found lately, I don’t even make enough to have a home down here,” Stevens says. “Whereas if I did have $15 [an hour] at least and union rights, then I’d be able to pick my own housing freely.”

Michigan State Capitol
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The Michigan state Senate passed legislation Tuesday that Democrats and others call anti-union. The bills would prevent public employers from paying employees while they conduct union business.

Proponents say taxpayer dollars shouldn’t go toward union business.

Senator Marty Knollenberg (R-Troy) is a bill sponsor.

“If a person is doing union business, then a union should pay for it. And so I’m not suggesting that they can’t take leave time, I just don’t think taxpayers should be paying for that. That’s really what it comes down to,” says Knollenberg.

Old image of Detroit's Grande Ballroom
Courtesy of the Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library

Today on Stateside, a Democratic party leader in Detroit reponds to recent news that Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones will be running as a write-in candidate against Democrat Rashida Tlaib in the race to represent the 13th District. Plus, we explore the history of MC5, one of the most well-known rock bands to come out of Detroit, on the 50th anniversary of their iconic live album recording.  

Listen to the full show above or find individual segments below. 

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder's office may ask the National Guard to finish roadwork that's been halted since the Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association locked out members of the operating engineers union in early September.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

It’s Labor Day, and that means political candidates are stumping for votes at events around the state – and many Democrats were in Detroit for the city’s annual Labor Day Parade.

Gubernatorial candidate Gretchen Whitmer and running mate Garlin Gilchrist met with skilled trades, Teamsters, and UAW union members.

They also rallied with Service Employees International Union President Mary Kay Henry and SEIU members, where Whitmer pledged to use the governor’s office to champion the interests of labor.

SEIU Local 1

Janitors with Detroit’s Service Employees International Union Local One are declaring victory after members ratified a new contract this past weekend.

SEIU Local 1 includes about 1700 custodial service workers in many downtown Detroit buildings, the Detroit Public Schools Community District, Detroit Metro Airport, and other locations.

Oliver Hale

Update, Tuesday July 24 at 1:00 p.m.:

Service Employees International Union Local 1 janitors announced Monday night that they had voted to authorize a possible strike, pending contract negotiations. If they are unable to reach agreements with their employers for a $15 per hour wage and three year contract before their contracts expire at the end of the month, Detroit could be facing a strike of 1,700 janitors starting August 1st.

​Original post, Monday July 23 at 4:00 p.m.:  

user meddygarnet / Flickr

The University of Michigan Professional Nurse Council's contract with Michigan Medicine is expected to expire Saturday night without a new one in place.

In the absence of a new contract, the nurses will continue to operate under the general terms of the expired one until an agreement is reached. 

Supreme Court
Claire Anderson / Unsplash

The Supreme Court issued a landmark decision Wednesday in the case Janus v. the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Council 31. AFSCME is the largest public sector union in the country.

In a 5-4 decision, the conservative majority held that public sector workers who are represented by unions cannot be required to pay any union dues.

U.S. Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court overturned a precedent-setting 1977 decision Wednesday.

The case,  Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, was a Michigan case that stipulated public sector employees who opt out of a union are still required to pay partial dues to cover the union's cost of negotiation and other operations.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

1700 lecturers are threatening a two-day work stoppage next month at the University of Michigan’s three campuses. The Lecturers’ Employee Organization represents non-tenure track faculty at the University of Michigan. The union is seeking a significant pay raise.

“This is happening because so far the administration has offered incredibly insulting counters to our eminently fair demands,” says Shelley Manis, a lecturer at the University’s Sweetland Writing Center and Ann Arbor campus co-chair of the Lecturers’ Employee Organization.   

Is there any hope for the future of unions?

Oct 24, 2017
UAW sign.
UAW

You don’t need a master’s degree in labor relations to know that America’s labor unions have been declining for years. In the early 1950s, more than a third of all private sector workers were unionized; in Detroit, that number may have been over half.

But the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that last year, union membership nationally fell to 10.7 percent, the lowest it’s been since before the New Deal and the Wagner Act gave workers the right to organize. In fact, union membership is far less in the private sector.

Trump rally in Newtown, Pennsylvania.
user Michael Candelori / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

 

“The Rust Belt revenge.”

That’s how Detroit News Business columnist Daniel Howes views the Election Day surprise that put Donald Trump in the White House and secured both Houses of Congress for the Republican Party.

In Howes’ view, the Rust Belt vote came together as a many-throated cry of “Listen to us!”

Democratic vice-presidential candidate Tim Kaine speaking earlier this year.
U.S. Department of Education

Virginia Senator and Democratic vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine spoke to hundreds of labor union members and their families in Warren on Sunday.

Kaine told the crowd that Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton will fight for a strong labor force.

Kaine says despite the polls being in the Democrats’ favor, people still need to get out and vote.

“Polls are looking OK. We feel good about where we are, we would rather be us than them,” Kaine said, “but you can’t take anything for granted.”

Campaign signs stacked against a wall in a union office.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Political parties are gearing up their “get-out-the-vote” efforts as the 2016 election enters its final days.

Unions have been a critical part of the Democratic Party’s get out the vote efforts for decades. This past week, union leaders held a get out the vote rally in Flint.

Becky Pringle is the vice president of the National Education Association. She says “they have work to do” convincing union families to support Hillary Clinton.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Union members have been a key voting demographic in Michigan for decades.

Historically, they’ve been a reliable voting bloc for Democrats. But in 2016, the Trump campaign hopes to change that. 

Hillary Clinton can pretty much write off Joe Kinder’s vote. He’s a retired Ford UAW worker.   

“As far as Clinton goes, she can’t be trusted," says Kinder. "I wouldn’t vote for her."

Kinder, like other members of organized labor, believes the North American Free Trade Agreement, signed by former President Bill Clinton, was a bad deal for American workers.

Hillary Clinton addressed the 2016 SEIU international convention in Detroit this May.
SEIU / via Twitter

Hillary Clinton made her second stop in Detroit this month, addressing union activists at the Service Employees International Union’s  convention on Monday.

Clinton told them the American economy and workplace have changed drastically in recent years, but too many of the policies that govern them haven’t.

She emphasized her support for worker-friendly policies like paid family leave, boosting the minimum wage, and equal pay for women.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Thousands of union members marched into downtown Detroit Monday as part of the city’s annual Labor Day parade.

Mirroring the downward trend in union membership nationally, parade attendance has lagged in recent years.

But the event still draws a big crowd, and there was an effort to bump up attendance this year, particularly from UAW locals.

The UAW is in the midst of bargaining new contracts with Detroit automakers.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Union negotiators head back to the bargaining table Monday morning, on behalf of more than 300 bus drivers and mechanics in Grand Rapids.

“Obviously, things are hot right now,” Local 836 union president RiChard Jackson told me last week, at a packed board meeting of the Interurban Transit Partnership, also known as The Rapid.

Courtesy of the MI Supreme Court

The Michigan Supreme Court dealt two blows to public employee unions on Wednesday.

The court ruled that Michigan’s right-to-work law does apply to state workers. That means they can decline to pay union dues without risking losing their jobs.

The plight of unions

Jun 4, 2015

If you’ve been following the news for a long time, sometimes the biggest indicator of how things have changed is not the stories themselves, but how they are treated.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Now that Republicans have strengthened their control of the Michigan Legislature, one analyst expects a fight to repeal the state’s prevailing wage law.

Republicans picked up four seats in the state House on Tuesday, expanding their majority to 63 of the 110 seats. Republicans also added a state Senate seat.The GOP will hold a 27-to-11 margin in the Senate when the next session begins in 2015.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) - The United Auto Workers union is forming a local aimed at representing the Mercedes plant in Alabama in a move mirroring its efforts at the Volkswagen plant in Tennessee.

UAW President Dennis Williams was joined by top labor officials at Mercedes parent Daimler AG and the German union IG Metall on Friday to announce the new effort to organize the plant, which is the company's only factory worldwide without labor representation.

Something happened in the auto industry recently that was mostly overlooked by the mainstream media – but which may have huge implications for the industry and the United Auto Workers union.  

Seven years ago, the UAW made a concession that I am convinced would have had Walter Reuther spinning in his grave.

They agreed to accept a two-tier wage system under which most new hires would be paid slightly less than half what long-time auto workers made.

Think about that.

This means most of them are earning less than $30,000 a year.  Can they buy a house with that salary?  Even buy one of the new cars and trucks they build?

You know the answer. Yet the union agreed, because it felt it had no choice.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Vice President Joe Biden repeatedly raised the issue of income inequality during a speech before the start of today’s Labor Day parade in Detroit.

Thousands of union workers packed the grounds of Old Tiger Stadium at Michigan and Trumbull to hear the Vice President speak. Biden was flanked on stage by  Teamsters President James P. Hoffa and United Auto Workers president Dennis Williams.  

Biden lashed out at corporations and the wealthy who make millions of dollars while union workers continue to struggle.

UAW sign.
UAW

In the 1970s, at the height of its power, the United Auto Workers had more than 1.5 million members. Today it has fewer than 400,000. Some of the reasons behind that include an aging union workforce.

But it’s not just the UAW. As many in the labor movement turn to retirement, unions are looking to rebuild and reinvent with younger members.

Roland Zullo is with the Institute for Research on Labor, Employment and the Economy at the University of Michigan.

Zullo said that job insecurity is the main reason why young people are not ready to join unions.

Daniel Parks / Flickr

An association of non-union construction companies has asked the state Supreme Court to strike down local prevailing wage laws. The Associated Builders and Contractors says a state law preempts the ordinances.

Nearly two dozen Michigan communities have their own prevailing wage ordinances. They’re supposed to ensure that workers on city-financed projects are paid something close to union wages.

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