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Breaking news, legislative updates and the facts.

March 2014: Legislative Update

Trampling on our First Amendment Rights

The State House is contemplating the passage of HB 4643, a bill sponsored by Representative Tom McMillin (R). HB 4643 will result in civil fines of up to $10,000 per day for picketing that is deemed illegal; creating a huge chilling effect on your First Amendment rights.

HB 4643 is clearly designed to intimidate citizens, discouraging them from exercising their right to assemble. The extent that this legislature will go to silence their opposition is despicable. Lawmakers have attacked workers in numerous ways over the past two sessions, and now they are going after their right to protest this awful treatment. This is a continuum of the steady transfer of money and political power away from workers to corporate special interests.

This bill would allow corporations to seek court orders to stop picketing action and levy civil fines without a requirement that they show any harm from the picketing action. Even worse, the bill allows the fines collected to be given to CEOs as compensation for damages.

Michigan law already prohibits mass picketing under certain conditions such as when doing so would impede or intimidate people from engaging in lawful employment, obstruct access to places of employment, interfere with use of public roads or if a picket involves a private residence. Michigan has no problem with unlawful picketing; this bill is purely an intimidation tactic to silence people from addressing the wrongs of this legislature.

HB 4643 was reported out on party lines from the Oversight Committee, chaired by Representative McMillin. It is now on Third Reading and could be passed at any time.

Contact your representative to tell them you are appalled at the action of the Oversight Committee and expect them to stop this bill from advancing.

Visit www.bitly.com/HB4643 to send an email to your legislator.

Over 3,000 messages have been sent so far, and your efforts are slowing this poisonous bill down.

Educational Achievement Authority (EAA) Update

When the EAA experiment was started, Governor Snyder said, “It is designed to provide a stable, financially responsible set of public schools that create the conditions, supports, tools and resources under which teachers can help students make significant academic gains.” The experiment failed.

Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) documents obtained by Representative Lipton (D) reveal an inside look at the EAA that isn’t pretty.

Here is some of what EAA documents and other reports have revealed so far:

Chaotic Finances – FOIA requests have revealed a chaotic financial picture, with district officials scrambling to make ends meet through a combination of a $6,000,000 revolving line of credit from the financially troubled Detroit Public Schools and State Aid advances from the Department of Treasury. The EAA even benefited from foreclosure settlement monies, getting millions more than the Scam Victim Restitution Fund.

Students Leaving – The EAA lost 24% of its students in ONE YEAR! Students have continued to flow out of the EAA since the school year began. In a four month period, the special education population dropped 10%, and the general education population dropped by 5%.

Students Not Safe – Within seven months, the EAA has reported over 5,000 discipline-related infractions, including 63 drug possessions, 33 gun possessions, and 22 physical assaults against staff.

Unethical Behavior – Multiple EAA teachers have reported that EAA higher-ups have manipulated Performance Series Testing by manufacturing numbers that appear to show student growth.

Now, a very desperate legislature is amending the bill to expand the E.A.A. in attempt to muster the 56 votes needed to pass the House. State School Superintendent Flanagan conveniently announced an end to the Michigan Department of Education’s exclusive contract with the Education Achievement Authority to operate schools placed under the control of the School Reform/Redesign Office. The question is whether Flannigan’s move is another attempt by the Snyder administration to gain additional votes from legislators who are opposed to the EAA coming to their district. It’s telling when a bill can only get support by a promise of exclusion from the results.

Labor Studies Programs

Did you know that Michigan has a wealth of resources to help workers strengthen their ability to advocate for working families. The Labor Studies programs at our public universities provide courses and workshops on a variety of topics ranging from Labor Leadership, Economics for Workers, Labor History and Strategic Planning. They will customize workshops to fit your particular needs to help you accomplish the goals of your organizations. For more information, go to the web addresses below.

Wayne State University Labor Studies: www.laborstudies.wayne.edu

Michigan State University School of Human Resources and Labor Relations: www.hrlr.msu.edu

University of Michigan Institute for Research on Labor, Employment, and the Economy: www.irlee.umich.edu

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