(Lansing)—More than 2,000 workers and voters assembled at the Captiol Tuesday to protest the Emergency Manager bills under consideration in the state Senate, saying they attack two fundamental rights Michigan citizens hold dear – the right to collectively bargain and the right to vote for our government’s leaders.
“Collective bargaining and voting rights are very similar – they are both processes to help solve problems, either in the workplace or in our communities,” said Christina Kuo, Executive Director of Common Cause, at a Monday afternoon press conference. “They are the way we ensure that voices are heard – whether they are from a worker or a voter.”
Proponents of the Emergency Manager bills claim they believe in collective bargaining and local control. However, those attending Monday’s press conference and Tuesday’s rally pointed out that the legislation suspends provisions of the Public Employees Relations Act (PERA) that requires local government to bargain in good faith. The legislation would also strip citizens of their rights to choose who represents them in local government.
“Through our right to collective bargaining with our local elected officials, we negotiate safety for the public and the firefighters going into the burning building,” said Lansing Firefighter Dan Kriegbaum at the rally. “Some Emergency Manager has never walked in my shoes.”
Opponents argue this is broad, sweeping authority granted to a political appointee, without sufficient oversight, transparency or control. At a minimum, they are asking the Legislature to address the following areas of concern:
– Require the emergency manager to bargain in good faith for a reasonable period of time.
– Require the contract provision(s) abrogated by the emergency manager to be economic in nature.
– Only allow the emergency manager to suspend provision(s) for a set period of time.
– Provide due process recourse for employees to challenge the emergency manager’s decisions relative to his/her authority under the law.
“My working conditions are my student’s learning conditions,” said Lothar Konietzko, a Lansing high school teacher. “Michigan’s students deserve better than the bait-and-switch routine these bills offer.”