March 15, 2013

Michigan Legislature Lame Duck session


Lame Duck Produces Bad Bills

The 2012 Michigan Legislature Lame Duck session produced some of the most controversial bills in recent history. Included among these is the so-called, anti-worker “Right-to-Work” legislation”. This bill should be called either “The Right-to-Freeload” or “The Right-to-Work for Less Pay.” bill.

On December 11, 2012, an estimated 17,000 thousand public and union members gathered in Lansing to protest this legislation. In spite of the protests, the Republican- controlled Legislature passed and Governor Snyder, the flip-flopper, signed Senate Bill 116 and House Bill 4003. “This was an example of extremist politicians continuing their assault on working Michigan families,” stated MEA President Steve Cook.

These Bills impact both the private and public sector and will take affect at the end of March. In states where there are so called Right-to-Work laws, workers make an average of $1500 less per year, twenty- one percent more people lack health insurance and workplace deaths are 51 percent higher.

In Right-to-Work states, workers have a lower standard of living, bring home less pay and less frequently have health insurance. This results in less consumer spending. Lower spending causes a ripple effect that further

hurts the economy. Already weakened from the Bush administration economic policies,

Michigan will be particularly harmed by Right- to-Work passage.

In addition the following bad legislation was passed during the Lame Duck Session.

  •   A new Emergency Manager Law similar to the one overturned by voters last November.
  •   The exemption of new industrial equipment from the personal property tax, resulting in another gift to corporate interests.
  •   The revision of the procedures to recall state lawmakers. Instead of holding two votes to recall a lawmaker, one for the recall and one to fill the seat, there will be just one election, where the lawmaker would face off against a challenge. Also, citizens will only have sixty days to collect signatures to recall an elected official, instead of the current ninety days.

Keeping Informed

The Social Security Administration announced that beneficiaries will see a 1.7% cost-of living adjustment (COLA) beginning in their January 2013 checks. Social Security benefits are automatically adjusted to keep up with the cost of living Michigan income tax changed from 4.35% to 4.25% on October 1, 2012. The personal exemption changed from $3,700 to $3,950.

Lawsuit Filed Against Right-to-Work

Several members of a labor coalition filed a lawsuit in the Circuit Court of Ingham County on January 31, 2013, citing the Open Meetings Acts as the reason for the suit. On December 6, 2012, the Legislature voted for Right-to-Work legislation. During the discussion and voting, the doors to the Capital building were locked for four hours. Attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union Fund of Michigan, Michigan Education Association, AFL-CIO, Change to Win, and the Michigan Building and Trades Council are party to the suit.

Info for Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

According to the Michigan Consumers for Health Care, which appeared in the latest Peace and National Priorities Newsletter, in Michigan today there are 1.1 million people without insurance. One in six of those persons without insurance are enrolled in Medicaid and every Michigan family with insurance pays $730 per year for emergency room care for the uninsured, the most expensive form of care available.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is the single most important reform of America’s health care system in decades. It profoundly affects Michigan citizens as well as small businesses,

The Affordable Care Act:

  •   Reduces health care costs for the middle class.
  •   Strengthens Medicare for seniors.
  •   Outlaws discrimination against Americans with pre- existing conditions.
  •   Reduces costs and makes coverage more affordable for people without it today.

Meet our Treasurer Charlie Robinson

Charlie Robertson not only has a love for politics, he lives it every day as an aide to State Senator Vincent Gregory. Charlie’s many responsibilities include both District and Legislative affairs.

Robinson was born in 1942. His parents were the first to be college- educated in his family. His mother’s family was active in the Illinois Democratic Party and his father’s family was staunchly Republican. Charlie stated, Dinner conversations at our family table were occasionally very loud and opinionated.” It turned out that Charlie’s mother had the most influence in his final choice of party affiliation. He became active in the Democratic Party while studying to be a teacher at Wayne State University. He graduated from Wayne State with a degree in Secondary Education, certified in Secondary Social Studies.

After he completed his college education, Charlie wanted to work as a teacher for the Detroit Public Schools, but he had to wait a while before he was hired because he found himself on the so-called “Red List.” He believed he made the list because of his anti-Vietnam war protests and his Civil Right’s activities.

Charlie learned later that when you asked to be removed from the “Red List,” you were simply put on some other

questionable list. In order to be hired by Detroit, he had to sign a loyalty oath and pass a loyalty test.

After satisfying all the requirements, Charlie was hired to teach science and orchestra at an East Side Junior High School. His teaching career continued at various Detroit high and junior high schools until layoffs came along. At this point, he became a substitute teacher. It was not long before things changed for the better and Charlie enjoyed a teaching career that lasted just shy of 40 years.

As a public school teacher, Charlie became a union activist, and a member of the American Federation of Teachers, Michigan, AFL-CIO Metro Detroit. He was elected as a delegate to both State and National Conventions many times during his career. Though he is retired now, Robinson is still a strong union supporter and supporter of Worker’s Rights.

In 1989, Charlie was financially able to move from Detroit to Southfield. When he arrived in Southfield, he was surprised and shocked to find he had entered a Republican stronghold. Being a Democrat, he soon found his way to the Southfield- Lathrup Democratic Club, where he was elected Treasurer and then Club Chair.

Under his tenure as Chair, the Club organized neighbors and union members and grew from around twenty to over 300 dues-paying members. The Club endorsed candidates for local offices and these endorsements became highly sought after.

Charlie ran for office twice; once for City Council where he lost by fifty-one votes and again for County Commissioner where he lost by 185 votes. After this, Charlie felt his calling should be to help other candidates. He was more often successful working with other office-seekers.

Included among the many candidates Charlie helped is Vincent Gregory. Gregory was elected to the Michigan House of Representatives and is now a State Senator. Today Charlie works for the Senator in Lansing.

Robinson says, “The Senator is a wonderful labor- friendly fellow to work for, however, in a government dominated by Republicans, it is difficult to see anything good coming out of Lansing.” He thinks that recent Republican regressive decisions have punished seniors by placing a tax on pensions and cutting Homestead Credits. These cuts to seniors came about at the same time Republicans were cutting or eliminating corporate taxes.

Charlie fought hard to prevent passage of the so-called Right-to-Work Bill. He says, “Right-to-Work for less pay is bad because it weakens unions.He thinks that one consequence of this for retired workers is that it will eventually make it impossible to maintain retiree obligations.

Charlie was elected Treasurer of the MiARA at the first state-wide gathering. He was involved in the planning stages of the Michigan Chapter from its conception, and

wanting to continue to contribute to MiARA made him decide to run for Treasurer.

Charlie thinks that MiARA must play an important role in the battle to protect the rights of workers and retirees. He wants the MiARA to be a strong progressive voice for seniors, their families and the community. Just like his experiences in the Southfield-Lathrup Club, he knows that building a state-wide chapter of ARA will take time. However, with continued effort, he is sure the Chapter will grow and become a strong voice for retired members.

Robinson salutes the unions that are active participants, but sees a need for more unions to join the cause. He states that it is important to have our individual members become even more active because of all the excellent issues around which we need to organize.

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Topics: Retirement Security

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