Wednesday, December 14, 2016

IMPORTANT - Senate Bills JEOPARDIZE the ability of your union to do business!

A REPRINT FROM THE last night's MEA  Message-

CALL TO ACTION - Fight Latest Attacks on Unions' Ability to Conduct Business
SB 279-280 impacts union release time; now includes ban on payroll deduction of dues for community colleges
We need members to join the fight against yet another anti-labor measure being pushed by the Legislature's Republican leadership. 
This morning, a House Committee passed two bills - SB 279 and 280 - that attack the ability of union leaders to use release time to address employment-related matters with school districts. In a surprise move, the committee also added language to SB 280 expanding the ban on payroll deduction of dues to employees of community colleges (not just K-12 school districts).
The House could vote on these bills any time before the lame duck session ends next week - the Senate previously passed them last year. Please contact your State Representative and urge them to vote against SB 279-280.
If signed into law, the bills would cost the state more in payments to the retirement system, while making it harder for district administrators and union leaders to collaborate on labor-management and educational issues, with the work needing to be done outside of school hours. Community colleges would incur costs to implement the dues deduction ban.
When you call or email your State Representative, use the talking points below to craft a strong argument that focuses on issues related to cost and efficiency. 
Summary: SB 279 would prohibit individuals from accruing retirement service credit for time spent in collaboration and problem-solving activities with school administrators. 
Talking Points:
  1. Unions are already required to reimburse the school district for retirement costs on release time. There is no cost savings to the district through passing this bill.
  2. If the leaders are not able to get service credit for union release time, then the school district is not reimbursed for the retirement costs for that time. The MPSERS cost for that time will become the responsibility of the school district, further stretching school budgets to the tune of $1 million.
Summary: Senate Bill 280 seeks to ban collective bargaining agreements with public employers that allow for union leave time to be paid for by the employer. This bill would have a very negative impact on the ability of public employers to conduct work during normal business hours. The bill also now bans community colleges from collecting dues via payroll deduction, unnecessarily restricting the rights of those employees.
Talking points: 
  1. Collective bargaining agreements that allow for employer-paid union leave time are the norm in both the public and private sector. These arrangements benefit both sides by allowing for regular contact with labor and management representatives and for ease of processing day to day employee issues and utilizing the skills of employees to collaborate with management on things like professional development, mentoring, school improvement, etc.  
  2. Whether it is a few hours per month to handle employment matters, or a full-time union official on union leave, these arrangements are collectively bargained and agreed upon by both sides in the contract. Allowing for beneficial cooperation between labor and management is especially important in schools where administration and educators need to work closely together to help students succeed.
  3. If paid union leave time is banned, union representatives will be less able to perform necessary work during normal business hours. This will result in this work being moved to non-business hours at much hassle and expense to the employer. 
  4. The addition of language banning payroll deduction of dues for community colleges is an unnecessary restraint on the rights of those employees to use the money in their paychecks as they see fit. In an age of electronic payroll processing, there is no cost to employers to conduct these withdrawals - in fact, community colleges will likely incur increased costs to implement this ban. And this ban has nothing to do with the rest of the contents of this bill, that's been under consideration for more than a year.
A vote on these bills could happen as soon as today -- please contact your State Representative and urge them to vote against SB 279-280.


Wednesday, December 7, 2016

YET ANOTHER Financial Threat to School Funding - TAKE ACTION

As reported in Capitol Comments this afternoon (Wed., 12/7/16), a new piece of legislation is gaining traction in the legislature and may serve to reduce funds meant for the education of children.   The bill would allow the state to pay tax refunds from the School Aid Fund rather than the General Fund as it is now.   This legislation would cost district $273 per student!  The continual grabbing of cash from the State School Aid Fund over the years has left most districts teetering financially.  Another financial blow is hard imagine.   Most schools have already cut programming and increased class sizes.

Please write your legislator and tell them to oppose the usage of School Aid Funds for tax refunds.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

GOOD NEWS about SB 102 - the Pension Bill

Reported by Doug Pratt, Public Affairs, MEA

MEA Board, Leaders and Staff,

It’s official – SB 102 is off the table for lame duck!
The press release below just went out to the media, after a Senate spokesperson confirmed the news to reporters.

Things we need to reinforce with members at this time:

1) This battle has been won, but this issue is not going away…we need to continue educating lawmakers for the next legislative session starting in January about the consequences of closing the pension system for new hires. But for today, THANK YOU to the thousands of people who communicated with their lawmakers about why SB 102 needed to be stopped.

2) We need to thank the lawmakers who stood with us...we’ll be sharing information on that as soon as we can.

3) Lame duck isn’t over with! The tax refund shift legislation still may move, as well as other issues. As we said in Capitol Comments yesterday – Lame Duck Hurts Kids…and lawmakers should be encouraged to end the lame duck session without passing other legislation that could have unintended consequences for our students and schools.


Doug Pratt
MEA Director of Public Affairs

TUESDAY, 12/6/2016 Legislative Update ACTION PLEASE

Greetings Fellow MEA Members,

Last night Gretchen Dziadosz, the Executive Director of the MEA, sent out a legislative update.

“As you know, we are fighting multiple fronts in lame duck. Not only are we fighting the pension cuts, the bill to eliminate calendar bargaining, but also the loss of association release time for leaders.

Thanks for all you are doing, especially, the massive effort on pension. It is having positive impact, although the fight is not over.”

"We need your help on the release time legislation.”

What our director is referring to is Senate Bills 279 and 280.

            Bill 279 – This bill would no longer allow union officials to have the state-funded pensions calculated from their union salaries.  This means that if your union president has release time, any of that time would not count toward their retirement.  This could be as far reaching as not allowing ANY member any union release time to take care of union business during the school day, unless they give up credit toward retirement.  This means all bargaining and perhaps disciplinary meetings and other union related business, could only occur outside of the school day, unless retirement credit was forfeited.

            Bill 280 – This bill would prohibit paid release time for union officials.  This would include a paid period of time where a teacher leaves the classroom to serve as the head of their local union or in the Michigan Education Associaiton.

It is already illegal for a school district to pay the retirement payment to ORS for any release time union members might have.   In most districts this has already significantly reduced the release time members have to go to trainings or to bargain because their local must repay the 25% share of retirement costs that districts must pay to the ORS.

These bills were being actively pursued last winter, but they have been “dormant” for a while now.  It looks like they have reappeared during this Lame Duck Session.

These bills are meant to reduce and/or eliminate MEA member voices in the operation of their schools!!!  The administrators’ state organizations, MASB and MASA, ALSO oppose these bills.   It is recognized even by their organizations as a means to severely impede the smooth operation of their districts!

There will be a committee meeting this Thursday at 8:15 am to hear testimony for and against these bills.  Here are the committee members who will be in the hearing on Thursday:
Joe Graves (Chair, 51st, Linden)
Jason Shephard (Vice Chair, 56th, Temperance)
Mike Callton (87th, Nashville)
Nancy Jenkins (57th, Clayton)
Joel Johnson (97th, Clare)
Bruce Rendon (103rd, Lake City)
Pat Somerville (23rd, New Boston)
Holly Hughes (91st, Montague)
Tom Barrett (71st, Potterville)
Daniella Garcia (90th, Holland)
Gary Glenn (98th, Midland)
Eric Leutheuser (58th, Hillsdale

Please pick ONE OR ALL of these legislators and write or call! 
Tell them:  that union release time is valuable to both union members and the school districts.  By having this time to talk and have discussions, problems are averted and discussions are held that clarify ways to solve potential problems from becoming bigger issues.  Tell them that it is important to you that your elected union leaders have the opportunity to share your concerns and needs while you caDOn be present in your classroom doing the work you love!



Thursday, December 1, 2016

Update on Legislative News and A NEW DANGER!!!

Senator David Knezek

Late this afternoon I received an email blast (it is also in his Twitter feed) from a state senator named David Knezek.  I am not quite sure how I got on his list, but probably because I read through many entries on the internet looking for information.
David Knezek is the Senator from District 5:  Dearborn Heights, Detroit, Garden City, Inkster, & Redford Township.  He is the youngest senator and he is a democrat.  I like his point of view.  If you are looking for a perspective that isn’t the regular stuff you read in the paper, I would suggest visiting his website.
This was Senator Knezek’s message late this afternoon:
The Michigan Senate has adjourned until December 6, 2016 without taking a vote to eliminate teachers' pensions.Legislation to eliminate healthcare benefits for police officers and fire fighters received a committee hearing today and may soon receive a vote in the Michigan House of Representatives.
Your phone calls and emails to legislators are working. Please don't stop. Michiganders need to mobilize, keep up the pressure, and hold our elected officials accountable.
Capitol Comments
Another good place for information is through the MEA’s Capitol Comments.   You can register to receive Capitol Comments through your email by going to  At the bottom of the page you will an icon of Capitol Comments.  Click and sign up.
News from Capitol Comments today has some good, but there is more very destructive legislation that was introduced.
The legislature did adjourn today and will not meet until next Tuesday.  They did this without voting on the SB 102 – the pension changes.  

The Newest Threat – TAKE ACTION!!!!
However, today a bill did gain traction that would DRAIN $403 MILLION dollars from the State School Aid Fund. That amounts to $273 per student.  When the State of Michigan has to pay income tax refunds to Michigan citizens, the money is taken from the General Fund.  This bill would have that money taken from the School Aid Fund instead. 

Why?  I can come up with lots of reasons why they might be doing it, but I think the result of this is even more important to consider.  For school districts that receive between $7600 to $9000 per student, that amounts to an average of 3% cut in funding.    For a district of 14,000 students, that is a cut of over $3 million dollars.  For a district of 2000 students, that is over a ½ million dollar cut in funding.  The cuts that would have to be made by school districts are unimaginable when you think about how much they have cut already.  Programming for students, class sizes, technology, class books… would that all be affected.

CLICK HERE to write your legislator and tell them NOT to rob the School State Aid Fund!  Tell them that students deserve the best education possible, and taking money from the SAF  denies them that right!


Wednesday, November 30, 2016


Below is the newest report from the MEA regarding the Lame Duck Session intentions of the Michigan Legislature on PENSION ACCOUNTS!

Please Take ACTION!
By using the link above, it will take you to the ACTION NETWORK.  Fill in your residential information.  The site will then provide you a preformatted letter about pensions (you can change it if you want), but it will automatically SEND THE LETTER TO YOUR LEGISLATOR!!!

"While the House and Governor’s intentions on pension reform in lame duck are less clear, Senate leaders have now publicly stated they’re going to attempt to pass SB 102 before year’s end, which would move all new school hires into a defined contribution, 401(k)-style retirement plan. 
Not only would this have a huge impact on new hires, but cutting off funding into the pension threatens to destabilize the system for current employees and retirees as well – everyone has a stake in this fight.
For his part, Gov. Snyder and his administration have been opposed to this change thus far, with a PowerPoint presentation making the rounds with lawmakers and superintendents saying that the total extra cost of this change will be $24 billion dollars over 30 years – MEA did a story about that last week via Capitol Comments, the website and Facebook.
That PowerPoint provides us our message with lawmakers that members and the public can share: State budget experts are saying this bill will cost taxpayers an extra $24 billion -- where will that money come from?  Tax increases?  Or cuts to my child’s education?
For 2017 alone, closing the pension system would cost an extra $1.2 billion – that equates to a cut of $820 per student!
The Senate Appropriations Committee has scheduled a meeting for 9 a.m. tomorrow about SB 102 (the bill that would put all new hires in a defined contribution system), as well as SBs 1177 and 1178 – bills that would spread out the state’s pension costs over 50 years, instead of the current 22 years.  This is an attempt to make the increased costs of closing the pension system appear smaller by spreading them out until 2067 – long after every current employee has retired and passing the buck on to future legislators and taxpayers."

By using the link above, it will take you to the ACTION NETWORK.  Fill in your residential information.  The site will then provide you a preformatted letter about pensions (you can change it if you want), but it will automatically SEND THE LETTER TO YOUR LEGISLATOR!!!

Monday, November 28, 2016

POSSIBLE PENSION ATTACK COMING in the Legislature’s “Lame Duck” Session

Beginning Tuesday, November 29th, the Michigan Legislature will be in session for three weeks.  This seems like a very short period of time, but it has proven in the past to be one of the most destructive times for Michigan’s public education system.  This time period is the last three weeks of the current legislature’s “reign” before newly elected officials are sworn in for the next session in January of 2017.

There have been numerous rumors about what will happen during this 3 week period, and as of this morning the legislature’s agenda has not been published.  What is known is that the DeVoss family (of Amway fame and major Republican campaign contributors, as well as Betsy DeVoss, current appointee of Donald Trump) has announced a plan to move Michigan public employees into a 401(k) styled defined contribution plan. 
The premise is that the current pension system is “broken”, and that there are dangerous unfunded liabilities that need to be addressed.  The truth is that the economic crash of 2008 was more detrimental to pension funds than any other factor.   However, recent changes have dramatically increased employee contributions into the system.  You all know that your contributions increased in 2012!    Also, in 2012 a “hybrid” system was put into effect for all school employees hired after that date.   The hybrid system is fully funded.  

The 2012 law also eliminated healthcare benefits for anyone hired after that date.  These changes will also bring relief to the retirement system over the next several years.
So, what’s broken?   And, what’s the problem?

Here’s what the MEA has researched and found:
1)      First, no one is getting rich off public school employee pensions.  45% of public school employees receive a pension of less than $14,500 a year.

2)      Some people do not realize that retirees receive less than 45% of their Final Average Compensation as a pension payment.

3)      Hedge fund managers and other Wall Street corporations are the real winners in eliminating traditional pensions plans and moving the money to their 401(k)s.  Please ask around; how many people lost more than half of their retirement funds when these accounts were devastated by the 2008 Wall Street collapse?  In retirement, people need secure funds!

4)      Numerous studies have shown that, in addition to being much less secure than a traditional pension, any savings to the state for making such a change would not be realized for more than 30 years. 


What Have Educational Employees Done to Sustain the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System (MPSERS)?

1)       In 1986 the MIP plan was introduced that required members to make contributions to their retirement benefits

2)      In 2012 the 1.5% multiplier was reduced to 1.25% unless a member chose to pay from 1 to 4% more into their retirement fund

a.       Basic members increased from 0 to 4%

b.      MIP Fixed increased from 3.9 to 7%

c.       MIP Graded members increased from a graded percentage of up to 4.3% to 7%

d.      MIP-Plus members increased from a graded percentage of up to 6.4% to 7%

3)      In 2012 new employees hired after PA 300’s effective date were placed in a “hybrid” system.  These employees will receive a smaller guaranteed monthly pension that will be combined with an individual retirement account. 

4)      Healthcare in retirement was ended for those hired after September 4, 2012.  Employees can choose to contribute up to 2% in a health account with an employer matching contribution.

Currently, public school employees are likely contributing almost 10% of their income to funds for a pension and to get some sort of health benefit in retirement. Add this to the cost of student loans many of our young teachers are paying, plus the cost of a place to live, transportation, and continuing costs for the education credits they must have to maintain their certifications…it is overwhelming.






Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Member Call to Action: School Calendar Bargaining Prohibition

-----This article is from today's (April 19th) "Capitol Comments"

A bill to prohibit school calendar as a topic of bargaining could pass the House as soon as tomorrow. It’s urgent that school employees, parents, and other education stakeholders in communities across the state contact lawmakers on the issue immediately! 

Not only should MEA members call their legislators, but school employees should encourage community members, friends, and family to voice opposition to the loss of local control in educational decision-making represented by House Bill 5194

Educators are the experts on the front lines, and we know what our students need in terms of a calendar and schedule. Prohibiting calendar from bargaining is yet another example of the state overstepping its role and usurping local authority. 

As schools move forward with innovative programs and individualized learning plans, administration and educators need to jointly plan, prepare, and solve problems together to achieve best practices and create an effective learning environment for children
Copy and Paste this message:

Educators are the experts on the front lines, and we know what our students need in terms of a calendar and schedule. Prohibiting calendar from bargaining is yet another example of the state overstepping its role and usurping local authority. 
As schools move forward with innovative programs and individualized learning plans, administration and educators need to jointly plan, prepare, and solve problems together to achieve best practices and create an effective learning environment for children


Thursday, February 11, 2016

TAKE ACTION to keep Bargaining Rights for Calendar!

House Bill 5194 just passed out of the House Education committee.  This bill makes CALENDAR and SCHEDULES PROHIBITED subjects of bargaining!  If your bargaining unit nor any of your fellow union members have a voice in the creation of the calendar nor the schedule, can you imagine what might happen?   We ARE professionals.   We are on the front line every day and we know what works as we create programming and lessons for the students!  We MUST have a voice in these decisions.

Please contact your HOUSE representative and let them know that this HB 5194 should NOT be passed.

To make it simple, please COPY the message below and then go the MEA Legislative site!  Just put in your zip code and the site will let you send the message to your own House representative.

CLICK HERE for the MEA Legislative site: 

COPY AND PASTE this message into the site’s message box:

“Teachers in our public schools do much planning to create new and innovative programs for students.   We work cooperatively with our administrators to create plans, schedules, and programming for our students.   We need to be able to plan with as much flexibility as possible.   The needs from district to district, and from school to school, vary greatly, and flexibility will allow us to create programs that best meet our communities’ needs.   Making this a prohibited topic of bargaining will not serve to improve education for children.  PLEASE VOTE NO on House Bill 5194.”