Michigan stays rational after Wisconsin protests

Today, Feb. 24, unions at this university are meeting to “discuss strategies to counter threats to collective bargaining rights here in Michigan and ways to express solidarity with state workers in Wisconsin and Ohio, whose collective bargaining rights are hanging in the balance,” according to an e-mail sent out by AAUP President and Professor Ron Sundell.

I’m proud of the unions at this university for taking a stand. I’m also glad to be living in a state where both the protesters and the lawmakers are respectful of one another.

Andy Harmon/NW

We’ve had our problems here in Michigan, arguably more than most states over the last decade. But while many other Republicans in state legislatures and governorships are seeking to force their decisions on their own budget deficits without support, often putting collective bargaining and education funding on the chopping block, our own lawmakers are doing something different. They’re being reasonable.

In Ohio, for example, after an attempt by Gov. John Kasich to end collective bargaining in the state, protesters made their voices heard. They urged the governor to allow the Ohio Highway Patrol to re-open the doors of the statehouse, which had been locked to keep them out. After a few days of protest, Ohio legislators made a compromise. According to the Associated Press, legislators in Ohio plan to change the wording of the bill to allow public employees the chance to negotiate wages, but would ban them from striking. Effectively, this isn’t a compromise at all –– it’s not being reasonable. It’s trading one restriction for another.

Meanwhile, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has rejected every compromise on collective bargaining that he has been offered according to the Washington Post. He has steadfastly refused to negotiate. Protesters have been going strong in the state capital, Madison, for over a week now –– still, no change in the man’s position. Every action, every word –– the man has not budged.

Last Wednesday, many Madison schools shut down because 40 percent of employees were expected to participate in a “sick-out.” Unionized teachers and professors called in sick and the schools shut down accordingly.

In the days that followed, some teachers and professors continued to call in sick – others just stopped coming. Instead of dealing with the problem, Walker is ignoring it, seeking to continue his agenda of ridding the state of collective bargaining rights.

Snyder, on the other hand, when hearing about the protests outside the Capitol, told bloomberg.com, “This is part of democracy. I just hope we do it in a civilized fashion and have an open dialogue.”

The cynic in me wants to point out that of course he said that. That’s what politicians do –– put a good spin on things. But it’s clear Snyder means it. He’s got a good track record of having real negotiations to settle things.

In January, Snyder invited all 15 public university presidents to Lansing to talk about the future of higher education in the state. At the meeting, he warned the presidents about cuts to their funding – and urged them to help him return the state to prosperity. Snyder didn’t have to do that. A governor like Walker likely wouldn’t have. But it was important to our governor that these presidents knew what was on the horizon, so it wouldn’t blind them.

Similarly, according to an article in the Detroit Free Press, Snyder has denied claims by his counterpart in Wisconsin that he’s out to end collective bargaining rights in Michigan.

Here in Michigan, the main threat to unions seems to be his proposal to give more powers to emergency financial managers, who are appointed by the governor to manage cities and school districts in financial crises –– including granting them the power to terminate union contracts, if necessary.

Wisconsin serves as a warning sign. As AFL-CIO Michigan President Mark Gaffney put it, “If individual legislators begin acting like they’re acting in Wisconsin, then we’ll be forced to act like Wisconsin, too.” So far, it looks like it’s not coming to that.

Snyder said in a speech recently that Michigan isn’t Wisconsin. “We’re two very different states,” he said.

I hope he and other lawmakers maintain their rationality. Let’s negotiate, rather than bring ourselves into the kind of deadlock seen in Wisconsin, or even the kinds of deadlocks we used to see between former Gov. Jennifer Granholm and Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop.

We’ve elected rational people to office –– now they’re repaying us by doing their job, rather than letting it escalate like in Wisconsin.



  • Greg
    February 24, 2011 | Permalink |

    I think Michigan should negotiate with the unions just like Obama and the Dems negotiated over the health care debacle. Almost end game for the tax and spend liberal, we will be rid of them one way or another. See you in the streets…

  • Brian
    February 25, 2011 | Permalink |

    The naive better start to understand that collective bargaining does not belong in the public sector. Tenure, seniority – is the avoidance of individual responsibility and accountability. FDR warned against it, and we are seeing the results. The Democrats love the union backing, and the Democrats model for their platform complete with high taxes, regulation, and union control is poverty ridden Detroit. you want all that – join a union and move to Detroit, but the rest of us want this state to survive the Democrats’ destruction of this state.

  • James Murray
    February 26, 2011 | Permalink |

    Baloney. While I may be wrong, I suspect the author of this article to be a young man who because of his youth desperately wants to believe that Gov. Snyder will be a reasonable man, even if Gov. Walker gets his way in Wisconsin. Baloney I say again.

    What most Americans seem to be missing, perhaps better described as ignoring, is the fact that this nation was long ago sold to the corporations, who now manipulate not only every aspect of the author’s life, but every aspect of every successful American politician’s life.

    Governor Snyder is Governor because he is bankrolled by corporate money. Corporations have no interest in the The People’s rights. Thus, Governor Walker’s (also bankrolled w/ corporate money) primary job is to violate The People’s rights under the First Amendment and he’s doing a fine job of it. Snyder will follow as surely as the U.S. Supreme Court danced to the Master’s tune when it ruled private property could be siezed to build a WalMart and more recently that there can be no limit on corporate contributions to political candidates.

    If American’s don’t know by now that actions greater than a sit-in at the Madison, Wisc. state capitol building will be required to wrest their nation from corporate control, I believe they never will.

    I would ask the author of this article and every American who is witnessing the attacks in Wisconsin to consider the following words of Thomas Jefferson:

    “When The People fear the government there is tyranny. When the government fears The People there is liberty.” So, who fears whom in America right now?

  • James Murray
    February 26, 2011 | Permalink |

    Should we assume “moderated” is code for “censored”? Surely Michigan universities are above that, aren’t they? Perhaps not. I wait to see.

  • Brian
    February 26, 2011 | Permalink |

    I love freedom, because you can choose to find a different job if you don’t like the pay, the benefits, and the pension. Tyranny definitely includes the confiscation of my hard earned small business dollars, for the sake of protection, lavish pensions, and benefits of the union public sector. Let’s not forget the teachers in Wisconsin under union protection who lied, called in sick to protest, while the schools closed their doors. Or is lying part of the new role modeling that we should expect in teachers? Once again, if you don’t like the particulars of your job, find another – that’s what makes America great. A dream, a work ethic, and an alarm clock is all it takes – Thanks Ted! OH unless you’re a public sector union hack – then all it takes is $800 a year, and you’re protected – how disgusting. But it appears that is about to change! Let’s lose the protective cloak, and make accountability key. Individual responsibility is the key to curing many social ills, and creates a moral path to success. Weak and incompetent union workers don’t need protection, they need to use their brain and hone the skills they have.

    Rights are God given – so let’s not categorize collective bargaining as a right. It you think this is a right, then you have been duped into thinking rights comes from politicians or agencies, and boy are you in trouble. If the government can giveth, the government can taketh away. The government’s responsibility is protecting our God Given rights, not politicizing issues for the benefit or detriment of any class or group. Unions are definitely special interest concerned with money. I guess that’s not all – they also send you plenty of propaganda for voting. So much for individual thinking. Your individual rights require individual responsibility and cannot be by proxy through a union. It just promotes another element of greed and power. What happens if the union disappears or you don’t pay your dues? You’re on your own, as it should be.

  • Robert Juidici
    March 5, 2011 | Permalink |

    Freedom to not belong to a union and still work in your chosen field would cause most democrats to go literally insane. The use of union dues to support the leaderships chosen politicians has been the lifeblood of the democrat party for the past 60 years. The public sector unions don’t collectively bargain, they merely contribute vast amounts of money to the legislators who write favorable laws protecting their jobs. Nobody represents the taxpayer who pays for it all.

  • March 5, 2011 | Permalink |

    Government-employee unions are nothing if not wholly owned subsidiaries of the Democratic Party. Unions’ PAC money is lavished almost entirely on Democrat Party candidates, despite the inconvenient truth that exit polls in presidential races [ e.g., http://people-press.org/commentary/?analysisid=114 ] consistently find union members’ support for Democrats to be between 50 and 60 percent.

    Public employees in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan have, of course, no choice in joining unions. Those who opt out are still fettered servants; they’re forced to pay so-called “fair share” fees to the unions.

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