Press Room

Press releases and statements from the Michigan AFL-CIO.

Michigan Unions Challenge Unconstitutional Election Law in Federal Court

PA 269, signed by Governor Snyder, violates free speech rights of union members in Michigan elections

DETROIT – Michigan labor unions filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court today challenging Public Act 269, a law signed by Governor Rick Snyder in 2015. The law, also known as Senate Bill 571, was passed late at night without a single committee hearing, and clearly violates the free speech rights of union members wishing to participate in Michigan elections.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit include: the Michigan State AFL-CIO; the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 58; the Utility Workers Union of America, Local 223; George Horuczi, an employee of DTE Energy, and a member and officer of UWUA Local 223; the Michigan State Utility Workers Council; and William D. Chadwick, Jr., an employee of Consumers Energy, and a member of UWUA Local 338.

“This law is unfair, unconstitutional, and downright un-American,” said Ron Bieber, President of the Michigan AFL-CIO. “It makes it easier for corporations and their super PACs to spend big money on our elections while silencing the voices of working people. We’re asking the court to do the right thing and protect the First Amendment rights of Michigan’s hardworking union members, so they can make their voices heard in Michigan’s elections.”

The legal action names Attorney General Bill Schuette and Secretary of State Ruth Johnson as defendants in their official capacities with the State of Michigan.

Unions assert that PA 269 discriminates against union members by allowing corporations and their trade associations to collect PAC contributions through payroll deduction, while prohibiting payroll deduction for union PAC contributions. The law violates the First Amendment rights of union members by selectively suppressing political speech and association, which is a clear violation of the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution. PA 269 also violates the Contract Clause, which protects existing collective bargaining agreements.

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The Michigan AFL-CIO is a federation of labor unions, and represents over 1 million active and retired union members across Michigan.

IBEW Local 58 is based in Detroit and represents 5,000 electricians in the construction, maintenance, broadcast and manufacturing industries.

UWUA Local 223 is headquartered in Detroit and represents 3,500 members employed by DTE Energy.

The Michigan State Utility Workers District Council is located in Charlotte, and represents 24 UWUA locals across Michigan.

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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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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