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Auditor’s Report on Grand Rapids Vets Home Shows Privatization Doesn’t Work, Hurts Vets

LANSING – The Michigan AFL-CIO issued the following statement today on the Auditor General’s report on the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans.

“The tragic lesson from this failed experiment is that privatization simply doesn’t work,” said Ron Bieber, President of the Michigan AFL-CIO. “Rep. Holly Hughes said this report is ‘disturbing,’ and she’s right. But if Rep. Hughes wants to find someone to blame, she should look in the mirror. It is now painfully clear that the 2011 budget passed by Lansing Republicans, which included the privatization of the Home for Veterans, was a terrible mistake.

“According to the auditor’s report, the facility was chronically understaffed, employees routinely failed to respond to alarm checks, and the for-profit management company failed to investigate complaints of abuse and neglect. That’s outrageous and unacceptable.

“No one should have to endure such horrible living conditions, especially not our military veterans. The state needs to stop shortchanging these brave men and women, and take immediate action by terminating its contract with J2S, which has proven to be totally inadequate and incompetent. Our veterans deserve nothing less.”

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Washtenaw Union Members Urge Rep. Walberg to Oppose Unfair Trade Agreement

Driskell speaks out against TPP, tells Walberg to protect Michigan jobs

ANN ARBOR – Washtenaw County union members gathered at IBEW Local 252 in Ann Arbor yesterday evening to make phone calls to Rep. Tim Walberg’s offices, urging the Congressman to oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Working people are opposing the TPP trade agreement because it fails to address currency manipulation, has weak rules of origin on cars and auto parts, and will weaken Buy American policies. State Rep. Gretchen Driskell spoke to volunteers at the phone bank, and called on Walberg to protect Michigan jobs.

“The TPP is bad news for working people, and it will really hurt Michigan’s auto industry,” said Ian Robinson, President of the Huron Valley Central Labor Council, and a research scientist at the University of Michigan. “The last thing our state needs is another bad trade deal like NAFTA, and that’s exactly what TPP represents. We need Congress to adopt trade policies that help us export more Michigan-made products, instead of Michigan jobs. Tim Walberg needs to do the right thing by opposing TPP.”

Last night union members from the IBEW, AFT Michigan, UAW, and other local unions made approximately 1,000 phone calls to Congressman Walberg’s offices in Jackson and Washington, D.C.

“American workers and manufacturers have been devastated by trade deals in the past and the sweeping terms of the Trans-Pacific Partnership would be no different,” said Driskell. “Unfortunately, some politicians, like Congressman Tim Walberg, are putting special interests ahead of Michigan’s working families and supporting a deal that would make it easier to ship US jobs overseas.”

In 2014, Michigan’s trade deficit was $66.8 billion – one of the highest trade deficits in the entire country. Since NAFTA was signed into law, Michigan has lost more than 254,000 good-paying manufacturing jobs.

By failing to address currency manipulation, America’s huge trade deficit with TPP countries like Japan will only get bigger – making it easier for foreign automakers to sell their cars here, and harder for Michigan’s car companies to sell vehicles overseas. Furthermore, the TPP includes weak rules of origin on autos and auto parts, which will reward outsourcing and hurt auto exports and jobs.

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The Huron Valley Central Labor Council represents 31 local unions, belonging to 18 national and international unions, representing over 10,000 union members in Washtenaw and Livingston Counties

Statement on Resignation of Darnell Earley, Legislation Punishing Detroit Teachers

LANSING – The Michigan AFL-CIO issued the following statement today commenting on the resignation of Darnell Earley, and legislation passed by the Senate Education Committee that punishes Detroit teachers for speaking up on behalf of their students.

“Darnell Earley was a complete disaster as the Emergency Manager of Detroit Public Schools and the City of Flint,” said Ron Bieber, President of the Michigan AFL-CIO. “But let’s be clear, Rick Snyder is the one who’s ultimately responsible for Earley’s failures in Flint and Detroit.

“It’s time for the governor to step up and work with both parties in Lansing to deliver immediate relief to schools in Detroit, where our students are being forced to learn in deplorable classrooms with crumbling ceilings, mold, dead rats, and insufficient heating. No child should ever have to learn in schools with such dire conditions.

“That’s why today’s vote in the Michigan Senate to punish Detroit teachers is such an outrage. These men and women are on the front lines every day fighting to protect their students. Fannie Lou Hamer said it best, teachers are ‘sick and tired of being sick and tired.’ The last thing we should be doing is punishing teachers for speaking up and shining a light on the classrooms their students are forced to learn in.

“Governor Snyder needs to stop treating Flint and DPS like public relations problems, and start doing what’s right for the people of Michigan.”

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New Data: Michigan Union Membership Increased in 2015

Michigan unions added 36,000 members last year

LANSING – The Bureau of Labor Statistics released new data today that show the percent of wage and salary workers in Michigan who were members of unions increased from 14.5 percent in 2014 to 15.2 percent in 2015. Labor unions in Michigan added approximately 36,000 new members last year.

“This is good news for all working people in Michigan,” said Ron Bieber, President of the Michigan AFL-CIO. “Despite the unrelenting attacks from Lansing politicians, working people understand the value of collective bargaining. A union contract gives working people the power to speak up together with one clear voice for fair wages, strong benefits, and time to be with family. And when working people earn wages that can sustain a family, it helps our small businesses and creates more jobs. Lansing needs to get the message, and start working together to make Michigan’s economy work for all of us, not just the wealthy.”

Nationally, the union membership rate held steady at 11.1 percent from 2014 to 2015.

Michigan was one of the only Great Lakes states to see an increase in union membership in 2015: Ohio was down from 12.4 percent in 2014 to 12.3 percent in 2015; Indiana was down from 10.7 percent in 2014 to 10.0 percent in 2015; Illinois was up from 15.1 percent in 2014 to 15.2 percent in 2015; Wisconsin was down from 11.7 percent in 2014 to 8.3 percent in 2015; and Minnesota was unchanged from 14.2 percent in 2014 to 14.2 percent in 2015.

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