Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Wednesday Legislation Report for OHIO & MICHIGAN

Today Ohio’s State Senate passed a bill 17-16 that drastically reduces the bargaining rights of unionized public workers. Six Republicans crossed party lines to vote against the bill. The bill will affect about 350,000 teachers, firefighters, police officers and other public employees.

The Ohio bill would ban strikes by public workers and establish penalties for those who do participate in walkouts. Unionized workers could negotiate wages, hours and certain work conditions but not health care, sick time or pension benefits. The measure would do away with automatic pay raises and base future wage increases on merit.
The bill now moves to Ohio’s House of Representatives, and is then expected to go to the Ohio governor who has already indicated his support for the bill.

Ohio’s State Senate President calls the bill “fair” and “balanced”. These words should alarm MICHIGAN TEACHERS as they are words that Governor Snyder uses to describe his proposals. Truly, the meaning of the word “fair” is very subjective.

What is fair? Isn’t it fair that teachers be allowed to bargain their health care, sick time and pension benefits? Is “fair” basing a teacher’s wage increases on merit? Who defines what merit is if a state senate requires wages be based on “merit”. Again, I don’t want government defining what merit is for teachers because they are not in schools, and they are not trained educators. If we have to deal with merit pay as teachers (which we DO because of Race to the Top laws),we should be able to negotiate what merit entails.

TODAY IN MICHIGAN (Wednesday, March 2, 2011):
Lt. Gov. Calley told a legislative panel that taxing pensions is “all about fairness”. There’s that “word” again. What is fair?

A Senate panel worked on the Emergency Manager package and it is expected to move to the floor of the Senate. This bill gives broad powers to Emergency Managers when a township, city, or school goes bankrupt. Among other things, the appointed Emergency Manager could totally eradicate any bargained contract in effect. The bill was approved by the Michigan House last Wednesday. (That’s what the rally was about last Tuesday and Wednesday)
IMPORTANT: The House Education Committee, headed by Bill Rogers from Brighton, voted 12-7 (along party lines) to report out HB 4152. This bill freezes teachers’ salaries and benefit levels during contract negotiations. Our local legislator, Lisa Brown, is also on this committee. She is a Democrat and presumably voted against it since it was reported that the vote followed party lines.

Educators in Michigan need to stay alert and be prepared to educate our legislators and governor regarding what is fair. Governor Snyder says he doesn't want to do what the Wisconsin governor is doing, but there are many different roads to restricted bargaining rights. Now is not a time for complacency.