In a continuation of the Michigan GOP’s assault on the state’s largest teachers union, Michigan Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville R-Monroe told public TV yesterday that lawmakers were planning on making Michigan a right to work for less state for teacher’s only.
Richardville discussed Republican plans to go after the Michigan Education Association teachers’ union on WKAR PBS “Off the Record”. While he came equipped with talking points, the interviewer was too knowledgeable to fall for his lines and Randy ended up slimed with the egg of pettiness on his face for using political power to punish the teachers union. See, the MEA put its weight behind the recall petition of House Education Committee Chairman Paul Scott and the Republicans are mad about it.
Richardville even admits that it would damage Michigan’s economy to make it a “right-to-work” state, but he thinks going after teachers is OK because he feels they haven’t made enough sacrifices. Richardville said, “…Teachers unions haven’t dealt with the financial problems districts are facing.” One wonders when anyone will ask government employees like Richardville exactly how he’s “dealing” with the financial problems his district is facing? Has he cut his own pay, his own benefits, his own perks, or his own staff?
Transcript courtesy of the Eclectablog and written by Chris Savage:
Jim Skubick: Right to work?
Richardville: Uh, not Right to Work. No, uh, I’m not a believer that that’s going to transition the economy at this point. However, I will look at some other things, maybe a subset of that. If you pay dollars into a public school system, you send your kids there, you want to participate, I don’t know that you necessarily need to be a part of a union in order to work or teach in the school district.
Skubick: So “Right to Work for Teachers”.
Richardville: I would call it the “Right to Teach” or “The Right to Participate” in the education system.
Skubick: Put that in a practical way. So that means that the MEA wouldn’t get members or how would that work?
Richardville: Well, they could still offer their membership but it, uh, it wouldn’t be a forced membership. They would have to recruit and do their work off-campus.
Detroit Free Press reporter Chris Christoff: Why would single out schools for that? Public schools?
Richardville: Well, because right now, the public schools are the one that are in dire straits and I believe that those unions and those workers that are out in the day-to-day, you know the teamsters, the engineers, the carpenters, the building trades, they’ve already had a significant effect from this economy. They’re paying more for their health care, they have less hours, they’re getting less pay. They’ve had that effect directly.
What’s happened in the public schools and, in some cases, the public government in general, is that that economic impact hasn’t hit. And so we’re making those adjustments for that reason.
Skubick: Is this an anti-MEA move?
Richardville: No, no, not at all.
Skubick: An attempt to get even?
Richardville: No, but we do have to —
Skubick: You’re not trying to take on the MEA, right?
Richardville: I don’t think taking on any union has anything to do with what our agenda is.
MIRS reporter Kathy Barks Hoffman: But the schools actually, aren’t you in a way, though, you’ve created the problem? You say the schools are in dire straits so the teachers need to, what, not pay their union dues? How does that saving schools? And, also, the governor was the one moved money out of the School Aid Fund to other things and the Legislature went along. So, I mean, it’s one thing to say that schools are in dire straits but that’s partly a decision the Legislature made.
Richardville: The dire straits wasn’t talking about just the financial piece of it. I don’t know if you’ve done the math or not before, but these “great cuts” that you’re talking about totaled about 1.8% far less than any other department we have in state government.
Barks Hoffman: It’s also about a billion dollars.
Richardville: But we’re talking about roughly 80% of the cost of the schools as being personnel so, you see, you have to do something in order to reduce that cost but maintain the quality of the teachers we have.
Richardville wasn’t able to talk his way around the fact that he and the Republicans had created the “dire straights” in the schools and that it won’t save a dime for schools if teachers “get” to not pay union dues. But sure as “Drill Here Drill Now” nonsense worked on the Republican base, the Foxites are up in arms about “forced” membership. As if having protection against those in power were a horrible thing that any real American wouldn’t want.
In truth, unions are as American as it gets. They are about empowering the working class, and states with unions have higher overall wages for all citizens than those “right-to-work” states. I like to think of it as the “Right-to-get-screwed” because the same people who are labeling unions “forced” participation are the the first to tell you to bend over for the “team” and take a pay cut so they can get a bigger bonus at the end of the year. Only suckers buy the “unions are bad” meme. Unions are not perfect and like any entity they are a power that needs to be checked from time to time, but they are essential.
Interestingly, Governor Synder doesn’t appear to be backing the measure at this time. Snyder’s spokeswoman said Friday, “He’s been very clear that right to work isn’t on his agenda. End of story.”
So just whose agenda is this and why? The MEA thinks it’s retribution for their assistance with the recall petition. MEA spokesperson said, “This is blatant abuse of legislative authority to dole out political payback. That any lawmaker would so willfully use their power to attack a group of people for exercising their constitutional rights to free speech and participation in the democratic process is unconscionable.”
Business Insider reported, “Republicans in the House and Senate are angry the MEA has played a significant role in efforts to get a recall election on the November ballot for House Education Committee Chairman Paul Scott. The Grand Blanc Republican raised MEA leaders’ ire by playing a key role in changing the state’s teacher tenure policies and voting to cut education funding.”
Given the fact that even Gov. Snyder isn’t backing this attack on teachers, it seems fair to conclude that Richardville and the GOP are simply using their political muscle as a vendetta.
The irony of the Republicans painting unions as “forced” membership when it is actually more like paid protection is hard to swallow, but even worse is the fact that while using budgetary concerns as the reason for their assaults, if we look at Wisconsin right now as an example, Republicans in some districts are giving pay raises to non-unionized government workers, a move meant to temporarily remove the appeal of being in a union – but one that exemplifies the hypocrisy of their use of a financial emergency to justify their attacks.
So it’s not the money that’s the issue: it’s the union. And why is that? Because the unions represent the middle class and they stand behind Democrats.
This is all about removing the political power of the middle class by cutting the balls off of the unions. It has nothing to do with money, although it appears to be enhanced by pettiness in Michigan. But if Republicans are going to keep using money as an excuse to dish out political payback against organizations they don’t like, it’s high time they put their money where their mouths are and start making cuts at home, with their own salaries, perks, staff, and benefits.
After all, we all need to “deal” with the financial crisis and we can’t have irresponsible spendthrifts running around using the government like their personal ATM just because they are an elected official. Especially not in Michigan, where being an elected official means nothing if Snyder decides it doesn’t. Perhaps the entire legislature should be replaced with Emergency Financial Managers, and we call it what it is: Government for the corporations, not the people. Also known as Fascism.