Aug 5, 2007

Michigan GOP launches full-court press on unions and the middle class

Michigan Republican's war on trade unions and the middle class is really beginning to take off, and both the Senate and the House have union-busting bills pending disguised under the deceptive sounding name “right to work law” which should have the more accurate descriptive names of “right to destroy the middle class law” or the right to break unions.”

Now, there is word that Senate Majority “Leader” Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, may use passage of the union-busting bills as one of his list of demands in order to release the hostage, the Michigan government, in the budget process. But the good news, according to subscription only Gongwer, is “a spokesperson for (Speaker of the House Andy) Mr. Dillon said this week that in no way is permitting a right to work measure to move forward part of the House leader's agenda to get policy or budgetary issues settled.”

Sen. Nancy Cassis, R-Novi, has introduced the union-busting bills in the Senate, Senate bills 607 and 608, and the companion bills in the House – House bills 4454 and 4455 – were introduced by two Representatives, Rep. Jack Hookendyk, R-Kalamazoo, and Rep. Kevin Elsenheimer, R-Bellaire. It seems fitting that Cassis is sponsoring both bills in the Senate, and she has emerged as the absolute enemy of the middle class and working people. She also introduced Senate Bill 662, which would suspend the Earned Income Tax Credit (EIC), that would give some tax relief to working families. The bipartisan measure was approved last legislative session by the GOP-controlled House and Senate.

Apparently, Cassis and the Republicans think rich CEOs really need the extra help but workers don’t. These are the he same CEOs who in 1965 was earning 24 times on average what the average worker was making, but just 30 years later the average CEO was making 262 times what the average worker is making.

This assault comes just as news reports that non-union Toyota is poised to overtake General Motors as the world's No. 1 automaker. But if anyone thinks Toyota’s strategy of building plants in poor, rural southern areas that are not accustomed to unions and organizing is working, there’s a story in the Washington Post that reports Toyota employees in eastern Kentucky are catching on to the broken promises and corporations’ attitude towards workers that they are to be used up and thrown away as soon as possible. Toyota also received massive government subsidies and tax breaks, and Toyota is also receiving unfair help from its government.

The United Auto Workers (UAW) has been fighting an uphill battle to organize Toyota where the employer holds all of the cards and advantages and the plants are located in areas that are just grateful to have any kind of job. Hopefully, the recent passage of the federal Employee Free Choice Act will help, along with recognition that Toyota could care less about its employees.

Toyota earned a record $14 billion profit last year on the backs of its nonunion workers, and according to the Post article, workers are seeing their fellow employees driven to the point where their bodies being broken down and then gotten rid of. Critics of unions think it’s all about wages, but it’s also about safe working conditions, health care, training, professional development and basic fairness.

C.J. James, 46, also wasn't a union supporter at first. She framed the Toyota job offer she got in 1988 and celebrated her hourly wage of $10.41 -- a huge step up from $3 for a security job at a unionized steel plant in Detroit. But repetitive stress injuries she has suffered on Toyota's assembly line -- and the pain of watching co-workers break down -- have convinced her it's time to unionize. "I've watched hundreds come and go, some so crippled they can no longer work, and they have to fight the company to get any kind of benefits or worker's compensation," said James.

Toyota has a history of broken promises and other abuses, such as full-time workers who are being replaced with temporary workers who make half the pay and have little or no health insurance.

Robert Bingaman, 53, didn't want a union when Toyota hired him in 1989. He had been a UAW member at GM until his Ohio plant closed and he lost his job. "I was promised the moon when I hired in," said Bingaman. "But it changed through the years ... They started reducing back on things. We were keeping up with cost of living before, but raises started getting smaller."

The article also talks about “legacy costs.” “Detroit automakers are burdened by so-called "legacy" costs of retiree health benefits and pensions won by the UAW during generations of contract negotiations. While GM has about 432,000 U.S. retirees, Toyota has only a handful. As a result, GM's average labor cost is $73.26 an hour, compared with $47.60 at Toyota.”

My dad is one of those “legacy costs” after retiring from the GM transmission plant in Toledo years ago. To me, and many of the kids I grew up with, our dads are much, much more than just “legacy costs.”

You can show your support for those workers exploited by Toyota by writing a letter to the President of Toyota North America.


Schuggy said...

Michigan Lawmakers and staffers using the state Senate's Internet server no longer can visit or post to a left-leaning political Web site, prompting backlash from bloggers and others who say it is blatant censorship and a violation of free speech rights.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop's chief of staff, Matt Miner, late last week asked the secretary of the Senate to block access to (By DAVID EGGERT The Associated Press)

For an electorate to make an informed decision...the people need information. The Blogging efforts of today’s people are a great democratic tool in the Federalist Papers' sense. We are living in an age where people in free society can say anything about their government and not go to jail. A country where it allows its people to speak out is a country worth fighting for. A government that shuts down people because they don’t like what they’re saying reminds me on the GASTAPO that my grandfather fought against. There’s an OPEN Michigan Political directory where anyone from any political thought can link their website to. I found over 200 Michigan political webpages from all over the political spectrum…A FREE Society is for FREE thinking people.

Citizen Carrie said...

Nancy Cassis represents a district where all the people want to do is go to work in the morning, leave work in the evening, and maybe stop off at Twelve Oaks Mall on their way home. She and a lot of her constituents cannot envision a life outside of this routine. Issues like poverty, workers' rights and health care do not even show up on their radar screens.