Teachers Union Unrest in Michigan

Tait Trussell is a national award-winning writer, former vice-president of the American Enterprise Institute and former Washington correspondent for The Wall Street Journal.


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The bespectacled Ms. Salters joined about 1,000 union members protesting at the state Capitol March 20. This resulted in 14 arrests and at least one felony charge. Some protesters slept in cardboard boxes March 26, calling it a “Snyderville” demonstration in an imitation of “Hooverville,” the shanty towns built during the Great Depression.

Salters was quoted as saying the new state Senate’s emergency financial manager bill, which gave these managers the power to terminate union contracts, was “just like being in the slave days.”  Ms. Salters is black. Seemingly, the race card must be played at some point in such protests.

“It is an embarrassment to families everywhere to have a top union boss stoop to such uncivil levels, and it is insulting to those who suffered under slavery,” said Beth DeShone, the Great Lakes Education Project advocacy director.

The Livingston Daily Press in Michigan quoted State Rep. Bill Rogers, a Republican, as seeing the MEA’s possible call for a strike “unconscionable.” Rogers is chairman of the K-12 appropriations Committee. He added that “it smells like a strike to me.”

A bill has been approved by the Michigan House that would, when a contract has expired, suspend teacher step increases and require teachers to bear more of the cost of their health insurance.

In Salters’ letter to her union members, she complained that one bill in the state legislature “would destroy the collective bargaining rights of our members and the local control of democratically elected bodies in school districts, cities, and other local government entities that are in ‘financial crisis’.”

She griped that another bill “would mandate that school districts request bids to outsource all transportation, custodial and food service work, threatening the livelihoods of tens of thousands of dedicated education support professionals.

“Bills are being considered,” she warned her members, “to require all school employees to pay at least 20 percent of their health insurance premiums and slash your salary by 5 percent.”

Some professionals in other fields pay a higher percentage of their health insurance costs.

Under the Comstock, MI, public schools teachers union contract, as a contract example, the average teacher salary was $55,826 in February 2011. The district provides health benefits costing $14,724 for the most commonly selected plan, which is 42 percent more costly than insurance provided to the average private sector worker in the state. Teachers contribute a mere 2 percent toward their coverage. This compares with 20 percent average contribution required from private sector workers in Michigan, according to the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

An attachment to Salters’ letter labeled “Job Action Authorization,” the teachers were asked to support the proposed resolution of the union board. The attachment told the teachers they should be willing “to risk the loss of pay, and possibly, the loss of your employment.”

The attachment also said: “Your working conditions are those students’ learning conditions.” What a stretch.

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  • Kirk

    For the record, most of Michigan's teacher unions are affiliated with the NEA, except Detroit which is affiliated with the AFT, though they are basically peas in a pod. The article doesn't mention that Salters makes nearly $300,000 and her top deputies make around $200,000 per year. This is at a time when our state has over 10% unemployment and has for several years.

    • davarino

      And what do those six figure execs do? Any body, any body? Pander for the unions, keep wages up, get more bennies for the union members, negotiate union contracts………….oh and fight for the children in the form of demanding breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and free pencils and paper and books and clothes and ………………..all the stuff that I and my parents payed for because we were responsible people that took care of our own.

      ENOUGH

  • davarino

    How do private schools do it with so much less money, and do a better job of it?

    Some how government jobs are exempt from any pain what soever. And some how, we are supposed to feel sorry for these people and give them what ever they want, or they will hold the children hostage. We the tax payers are supposed to feel sorry for these people? You union knuckle heads dont realize that we tax payers are feeling pain, losing jobs, paying more for our health care, and some how you are better than us. I think you dummies really think that money from Washington and your state comes from nowhere. It comes from we the tax payers. Your complaining to the wrong people. The party is over……finally

    • Uninformed

      Do you know that private schools can reject any student they want to? You claim they do a better job yet they can (and do) refuse special education students so they do not have to provide services for these students. The average cost of education for a special education student is approximately 3 times that of a general education student. So not only do private schools get to pass on these students who would bring down their test scores but they also avoid the 3x cost they bring on the school.

      And where do you get that private schools do it with "so much less". The average public school in Michigan receives less than $8000 per pupil. In Oakland County we have several private schools. Novi Catholic Central ($9800 per year), Birmingham Brother Rice ($10,100 per year), Orchard Lake St. Mary's ($9800 per year), and if you want the top echelon schools like Cranbrook ($27,450 per year and no that does not include boarding) or Country Day ($24,700). I can only imagine what a public school would do with $25,000 per year.

      Furthermore, teachers are more the willing to accept an appropriate wage, but when the economy is flourishing you don't see teachers getting huge bonuses and 10-20% raises (It doesn't happen and they don't complain about that either). So when the economy is struggling the hope from educators is that education and educators are important and should not see be attacked during this time. Last point before I go… When you and others compare teachers to "private" industry it is very insulting. Every teacher in Michigan has a bachelors and the vast majority have a masters degree or higher. If you're going to compare teachers to private industry try a comparison to say an RN or someone of similar education status. I'm fairly confident that many if not most teachers could make as good a living or better in another industry. We do not work in the private fast food industry and should not be compared to those workers.

      • cgerber

        Your missing the point: Government Unionized Schools suck! They produce an inferior product that can't compete in the Global Economy. The USA is BROKE WHAT PART OF THERE IS NO MORE MONIES DON'T YOUR GET? I loved to get 55K a year for baseline 1440 HR of work plus only 2% of my wage for Health care cost. You need to check the College SAT score of the top 30 ranked profession in the USA Colleges entry exams. Without any surprise you’ll find that the people that enter the Government Unionized Schools suck in smarts and rank consistently below 28th of all professions. Their degrees are a JOKE! It’s not amazing the K-12 system reflects that more or less in different geographical areas. More monies haven’t produce nothing except more broke school districts. Like Col. Jessup in a few good men said “ You can’t handle the truth, you don’t want the truth and “We really don’t give a damm what you think your entitle too”. TAXES and DEATH. Wishing you good life. CLLPT A-Hole.

        • Jim_C

          Wait–you don't actually think that what these governors are doing has something to do with improving education, do you?

        • RICH ROD

          SOUNDS LIKE YOUR A MICHIGAN GRAD

        • denise d

          The reason academically gifted people don't choose teaching more often is due to lower salary they will make and the lack of respect. I graduated from UM with a biology degree, was valedictorian of my high school class and ended up going back to UM to get secondary certification. You're right, I wasn't surrounded by the same calibur of students as I was in my undergraduate science program. One of the reasons I chose teaching is I agreed with you and I really believe in public education. I wanted to contribute and bring a higher standard to education as well (plus I reallly liked kids). I am a good teacher and I continue to improve, BUT ignorant people like you don't seem to understand that you get what you pay for. Increase salaries and you'll see better applicants. Due to people like you and our idiot governor, the stress and negativity I feel towards my profession has gotten so huge that I'm applying to medical school— and Yes, I am a very good, work-my-ass-off effective teacher who loves her students. Good job.

      • Demhater2

        your so full of BS my time is limited to this single sentence,

        • Jim_C

          Congrats–this sentence is no doubt the apex of your intellectual capability. And you even almost managed to spell and punctuate it correctly!

    • BILL WRIGHT

      BECAUSE PRIVATE SCHOOLS DO NOT TAKE PROBLEM KIDS OR FAMILIES. THEY CAN PICK AND CHOSE KIDS.

    • Clara

      Private schools can decide not to take children with special needs (emotional, behavioral or learning disabilities). Public school has to take them all. Also, most private schools are religious or private tuition based. This means a whole different culture of parents and students. Get your facts straight before you rip on public education.

  • Cuban Refugee

    "Workers of the world unite — it's not just a slogan anymore" as per Andy Stern. These teachers, blinded by Job Actions and union bosses, have no clue that they are patsies in a bigger game. They are foot soldiers being used by the fat-bellied union honchos to keep them in the style to which they have become accustomed.

  • Boca Cond King

    Batman and Bruce Wayne, Superman and Clark Kent, somethings never seem to be in the same room at the same time.

    In this case, public union workers and illegal immigration. The left supports both, I suggest that we offer to pay / bring in immigrants to do the jobs that the unions do for less money.

    Imagine an Salvadorian work crew working for min wage fixing roads and bridges, with the money saved on labor we could rebuild tremendous amounts of our infrastructure.

    Imagine replacing lazy entitled public union workers with hard working, happy to have any job poor people from the third world. The savings would be tremendous and the benefits for the government huge.

    Of course if you object to using illegal immigrants to replace public union workers you are a racist, and ignorant of the fact that no human being is illegal.

    • Are you kidding

      Brilliant idea – Let's use the lowest educated people that we can pay to least to teach our children. Instead of working at McDonald's or Walmart they can teach the future generations. Genius. Maybe we can get rid of teachers all together, stick kids in front of a computer and tell them to learn and advance society.

      • Jim_C

        Exactly. There sure are a lot of people who think that because they slept through 12 years of school, suddenly they know what it is that teachers do.

        • Boca Cond King

          1st I was referring to public union workers in road maintenance and other physical jobs, but since this article is on teachers, let's talk about bringing in teachers from other countries say in Africa?

          But first, how racist of Are you Kidding to assume that illegal immigrants are ignorant. Many illegal immigrants are well educated, but here take low level jobs just to get by.

          So, there are no people outside this country in a low wage third world country that could teach our children for less? At least teach the three Rs and the three Ss? We could not bring in Ugandans or Nigerians’ to teach?

  • Carolyn

    BOCA COND KING! You've got the right idea – but I'd like it better if they were legal!

  • Cobralord

    I think its time for the Governor to break the public sector unions once and for all.

  • Jim_C

    "What a stretch"?

    There is nothing Salters said that isn't true.

    If you think any of this will actually IMPROVE schools, you're a fool. Most of you aren't fools, of course–but then, none of this has anything at all to do with improving schools, either.

  • JosephWiess

    Good, let them strike, then Michigan can enact the end of collective bargaining and fire all of the teachers who get fired for missing school.

  • voted against carter

    Hey MI teachers, I live in the metro Detroit aria, GO AHEAD and strike.

    It won't matter, our kids are as DUMB AS POST's any way.

    You staying home will be an improvement.

  • Youneedmeds

    Well teachers, go ahead and have a “wildcat” strike,you guys must not have read the paper in a few days about emergency managers being able to “break union contracts” so the cities can keep from going belly up- so go strike and see what happens next, then the teachers will have nothing to complain about because they will be unemployed just like half the state is already.

  • cgerber

    Yea Jim, I hear you but then you don't mind the check. After all everyone know they are Illegal, it's fraud, anyone else be doing that, they would be prosecuted. Sound like you want a different job. Think about it the first grade teacher that passed that illiterate kid now should be that kids second grade teacher and on and on…. Sooner or later someone would get tired of the game, you hope so anyway. Don't forget we have become a country were the minority imposes their will on the majority! Wonderful isn't? It's only going to get better Jim and remember you Vote for that Union and the CLLPT's after all it's YOU!

  • Steve

    I actually have to disagree with you on the fact that teachers haven't made any sacrifices, in fact each year in the state of Michigan, school districts here have been cutting and slashing budgets left and right in order to be able to maintain a near balanced budget .(as required by state law) The slashing people haven't heard about up here in MI has really been due to the fact that people are leaving the state. (Not quite as news-worthy) However what this really turns into is larger class sizes, additional teaching hours (losing prep hours), and further teachers have already seen a cut in pay over the last 2-5 years (due to the state not growing…the variance is based on district wealth).

    Lastly, a comment to the author of the article. When you make mention that the teacher's working environment is the same as the students' learning environment as a stretch, I really would like you to stop and think for a moment. If teachers are doing with less (as it is many teachers supply out of their own pocket paper, writing utensils, and even food…ie lunch for kids who already can't afford it), making a further cut…how do you really think that is going to improve learning conditions? Further, slashing budgets, removing teachers due to lack of funds, creating larger classrooms…is that really going to be able to help teachers actually teach their content? If you say yes…my question to you is, have you actually taught 40+ 12 yr olds for 50 minutes solid? I promise you it is no easy task, and to challange you to actually go work with a teacher in a nearby school district to actually see what it is like in order to truly understand both sides of the coin.

  • Amused

    If YOUR kidsd are dumb as posts , that dont say much for you ….the fruit dont fall too far from the tree .Stop blaming teachers for your own inadiquecies.

  • godhelpusall

    Remove fully paid health benefits from the thousands of retired workers, let them pay towards their health insurance as is done in the private sector workforce and there will be plenty of money to properly educate our children and pay our current teachers adequately and fairly..

  • Amused

    The average "private sector " contributions foir health c are vary from $30 a paycheck to about $140 a month , all having in and out of network variances in co-pays as do those of public employees . If you think that these will make the difference in State Budget shortfalls , then you know nothing of State Budgets , nor do you know anything of the real reasons that they are in the position they find themselves in . Teachers are the "red herring argument " and the easy btarget for REpublican budget cutters . The states presently making the news , in addition to following this mindset , want to legislate the lowest tax rates for its citizens making $250k + and the highest for those making under $30 k, whilst the largest breaks going to big companies that they allege will create jobs . .so everyone supposed to keep their mouth shut and swallow the pill ? Bunk ! All those who voted these bums in , did not do so with THAT as a platform , nor did the elected camapign for that as candidates …..they never would have been elected .

  • nakedempire

    The states are in dire condition………Texas is looking at a $9 billion cut to education…….sadly this will get worse…… protests from Montana to New Hampshire…………..keep an eye on the states…..
    http://nakedempire2.blogspot.com/