Monday, August 27, 2012

Collective bargaining ordered onto ballot by Court of Appeals

AS REPORTED IN MEA's "Capital Comments" this afternoon -

Today, the Michigan Court of Appeals decided 2-1 to let the constitutional amendment protecting collective bargaining and working families go before the voters on Nov. 6. The Michigan Supreme Court gave the Appeals Court until today to make a decision. It's still not certain what position the issue will have on the ballot, but it is certain critics of the amendment will appeal to the Supreme Court.

It may be last week's Supreme Court ruling to put the casino ballot proposal on the Nov. 6 ballot that paved the way for today's Court of Appeals' decision. The lower court rejected the casino proposal on the grounds that it would create sweeping changes to the Constitution--the same argument being used to reject the collective bargaining amendment. When the Supreme Court overturned the lower court's ruling on casinos, it seemed inevitable that the nearly 700,000 voters who signed the collective bargaining petitions would have a chance to decide the issue on Nov. 6.

However, today, the Board of Canvassers still couldn't come up with the needed votes to certify the casino proposal, so that issue is probably going back to the courts.

While the opponents of working families will likely appeal today's decision to the Supreme Court, a significant legal hurdle has been cleared for MEA leaders, members and staff to make sure collective bargaining rights and working families are protected.

Also reported by MIRS News Agency tonight, quotes from POJ Advocates:

POJ swiftly issued a press release moments after the decision, saying, "There was no legal reason to deny people the opportunity to vote on the proposal." The statement banged on Attorney General Bill SCHUETTE for his "faulty and politically motivated" opinion that drove the Board of State Canvassers for denying certification to begin with.

The group also ripped Gov. Rick SNYDER for filing a brief in support of Schuette's decision, saying, "No Michigan governor or attorney general has ever taken such drastic action to prevent citizens from exercising their right to vote."

"It's a major victory for working people," said Karen Kuciel, a Warren Consolidated Schools teacher. "Collective bargaining will be on the ballot for a vote. Now we must overcome the corporate special interests at the ballot box to ensure we have a voice for fair wages, benefits and safe working conditions for all of us."

Thursday, August 16, 2012


1) Regarding the 3% deduction from your checks over the last two years – the supposed “Retiree Healthcare Contribution (now being held in escrow)

This afternoon, the Michigan Court of Appeals by a 2 to 1 majority has found the 3% retiree health contribution to be unconstitutional under both state and federal constitutions. The
majority holds that the exaction of the 3% unconstitutionally impairs a contract between the state and MPSERS members, constitutes an unconstitutional taking of property without just compensation, and violates substantive due process of law. There is a dissenting opinion by Judge Saad.

Of course, the state, through the Attorney General, no doubt will appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court. The state has 42 days to file an Application for Leave to Appeal with the Supreme Court. In the meantime, the escrow will continue until a final decision is reached.

Once MEA Legal Services has had an opportunity to carefully analyze the Court’s opinion, we will advise what impact it has on the legislation just passed by the Legislature yesterday.

2) Regarding the "Protect Our Jobs" Petition Lawsuit Against the State Board of Canvassers

The Michigan Court of Appeals has wasted no time in scheduling arguments in the POJ lawsuit
against the State Board of Canvassers. The Court of Appeals has just issued an order requiring a response from the Board of Canvassers to the arguments made on the POJ brief by the close of business next Monday, August 20; any reply from POJ must be filed by the close of business on Tuesday, August 21; and oral arguments will be heard by the Court of Appeals next Wednesday, August 22, at 10 a.m. in Lansing. POJ also filed a request with the Michigan Supreme Court yesterday to bypass the Court of Appeals due to the time constraints to obtain a decision in time for the proposal to appear on the November ballot. The Court of Appeals process will continue until and unless the Supreme Court decides to grant the motion to bypass.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

SB 1040 passes House, Senate; SOJ denied ballot place

A REPRINT OF MEA’s “Capital Comments” from August 15, 2012

There's little good news in the Senate and House finally voting out SB 1040 today. On a 21-6 Senate vote and a 57-48 House vote, they increased current employee contributions to their pensions, increased retirees' share of their health insurance, and ended retiree health insurance for new hires.

Under SB 1040, new hires will not be moved to a defined contribution retirement benefit. They will stay in the current hybrid system which combines a defined benefit and defined contribution mix. New to the bill, is the call for a study of the financial impact moving new hires to the defined contribution would cause. The study will be done by Nov. 15.

Current employees will be paying either 4 percent or 7 percent to their retirement pension, depending on what plan they are in. Current employees will also continue to make the 3 percent contribution to their retiree health insurance, but now the money will be used to prefund the retirement system. Employees could end their 3 percent contribution if they move to a 401(k) plan which will include an employer match up to 2 percent.

Retirees will see their share of their health insurance premiums jump from the current 10 percent to 20 percent if they are 64 or younger on Jan. 1, 2013. Retirees 65 or older on that date will remain at the 10 percent share.

Employees first hired on or after Sept. 4, 2012 won't be receiving retiree health insurance. Instead they'll be placed in a 401(k) plan that includes an employer match of up to 2 percent. When new hires end their employment, they'll get a lump sum deposit.

The Senate also voted to keep the current calculation for a school district's MPSERS contribution based on payroll. The House had proposed basing the calculation on current operating expenditures.

Republican Senators Jones, Nofs, Pavlov, and Proos voted with Democrats in opposing the bill.

ME (Terese): The MEA and the WLEA will be presenting more information regarding 1040, as all school employees will need to make decisions regarding the deductions by the state for their retirement by October 26th.

  • · Eliminates retiree health insurance for new hires
  • · Increases current retirees’ premium share from 10% to 20% (only for those 64 or younger on 1/1/13)
  • · Increases pension contributions for current employees
  • · Gives current employees not already in the “hybrid plan” a choice whether to contribute 3% to maintain their retiree health insurance or give up their retiree insurance and get a 2% contribution to a 401k
POJ Constitutional Amendment NOT on the ballot--for now

As expected, the Board of Canvassers split 2-2 on whether to put the constitutional amendment to protect collective bargaining on the November ballot. For now, the proposal is off the ballot. The Protect Our Jobs campaign will now take the fight for working families to the Michigan Supreme Court for a decision, bypassing the state Court of Appeals.

Opponents to the ballot proposal want the effect of the constitutional amendment and the list of laws impacted written into the language--and keep it to 100 words. Supporters maintain that the proposal met all legal requirements even before the petition drive began.

Two weeks ago, at the request of Gov. Snyder, Attorney General Bill Scheutte issued an opinion that the collective bargaining proposal should be kept off the ballot. He claims that the proposal does not specifically list the parts of the constitution that will be impacted by the amendment. His opinion, however, is based on faulty legal reasoning and is not legally binding.

The whole action seems politically motivated since in 2004, Schuette had a totally different opinion. As a Court of Appeals judge, he rejected his current argument when it came time to put the proposal banning affirmative action on the ballot.

It's unfortunate that political motivation is working to silence the voices of nearly 700,000 voters who signed the Protect Our Jobs petitions. Those voters know the importance of collective bargaining when it comes to school employees and student success; to firefighters when it comes to saving lives; and to nurses when it comes to patient care. Too bad some politicians don't.