Aug 26, 2009

Union endorsement in Senate race is anti-worker

Michigan Senate Republicans have been waging a war against Michigan workers and collective bargaining, so it was with shock and disbelief that I learned that Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Michigan State Council had endorsed the Republican in the race for the vacant 19th Senate District over Rep. Martin Griffin, D-Jackson.
I emailed them for an explanation and to voice my objection, and to point out the fact that Senate Republicans have been pushing the union busting “Right to Work for Less” bills, and to let them know that increasing their thin majority will ensure the bills will move. But Mel Grieshaber, the Executive Director of SEIU Local 526M that represents prison guards, assured me that was not the case.

“Mike Nofs has signed the laborers pledge and we have seen it,” he wrote. “He does not support right to work, nor will he vote for it if it comes up in the Senate.”

He was so adamant to defend the misguided endorsement that the word “signed” was in all caps. I beg to differ. The Senate Republicans owned a 21-17 edge when now U.S. Rep. Mark Schauer, D-Battle Creek, held that seat. Giving them a 22-16 edge with a special election win in November and a leg up in the 2010 election will only embolden them to push RTW. I’m sure when the Republican Caucus gets Nofs behind closed doors and twists his arm the pledge will not be worth the paper it’s written on.

Proponents of RTW claim the law would do away with the requirement that workers must be in a union to be employed at a union shop. However, federal law already protects workers who don't want to join a union to get or keep their jobs, and gives workers the right to opt out of a union. But they must still pay union dues. RTW would give them the option of not paying dues while still enjoying the benefits of being in a union.

Unions in RTW states are required by law to defend non-dues-paying members involved in a dispute or charged with a grievance at work, but even those employees do not have to contribute dues. The simple fact is RTW does not give workers more rights, but instead it weakens unions and their ability to bargain for improved benefits and working conditions, which they call the real intent of RTW. The union, by law, must represent all workers equally.

Last session, there were RTW bills in both the House and Senate that did not get out of committee. The Senate version was introduced by Sen. Nancy Cassis, R-Novi. This session, there is only the House version: House Bill 4081 introduced by Rep. Marty Knollenberg, R-Troy. I’m sure Cassis will be reintroducing the Senate version soon, especially if the Republicans increase their majority this November.

I also got a response from SEIU political director Vaughn Thompson, who assured we that Nofs, as well as Sen. Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, are both “pro-worker.” I about fell out of my chair when I heard that one. I don’t yet know a whole lot about Nofs’ record, but I’m familiar with the record of the man from my hometown of Monroe. He is anything but pro-worker, and I don’t understand how he got that undeserved reputation.

“We all know that Right to Work is wrong for Michigan and so does Mike Nofs and some others pro-worker Republicans like Randy Richardville,” Thompson wrote.

Perhaps he forgot about Senate Resolution 16 that was approved with every single Republican, including Richardville, voting yes in February that asked the U.S. Congress to oppose the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). Under the EFCA an employer could only challenge a card check petition if fraud or illegal coercion was alleged, and not automatically call for an election when the majority of workers say they want a union by signing pledge cards.

Perhaps he forgot about the vote on House Bills 4785-86 that would provide unemployment benefits to individuals who are only available for and seeking part-time work and those in an approved job training program who have exhausted their regular benefits that would pump $140 million in federal funds into Michigan. Every Republican voted against it, including Richardville.

Perhaps he forgot about Richardville, chair of the Senate Banking and Financial Institutions Committee, stripping out a provision in Senate Bills 4453-4455 that would help workers having their homes foreclosed on. The provision would have stipulated that if at the end of the 90 days a homeowner is eligible for a loan modification, but the lender does not give it to them for whatever reason, then the lender would be forced to take the foreclosure through the judicial process. That provision passed the House, but it was striped out and approved along party lines in the Senate with Richardville standing up for banks against workers.

You need to reconsider that endorsement.

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