It’s been a tough few years for organized labor as first a national “card check” law bombed in Nancy Pelosi’s Congress and then Michigan, home of the United Autoworkers, stunned the nation by voting for right to work. But Big Labor is still pushing to deny workers’ rights.
Shut out of foreign-run auto plants, the United Auto Workers are desperate to unionize the newest kid on the block, VW’s Chattanooga facility. But the prospects of success in a secret-ballot election are poor, so the UAW is trying a card-check method so they can intimidate workers into signing away their support. Eight Volkswagen workers have filed suit with the National Labor Relations Board alleging the UAW has bullied them into signing cards that would prevent an election at the VW facility.
Meanwhile, here in Michigan, the Michigan Education Association is trying to intimidate teachers by publicly listing the names of those who have left the union under the state’s right-to-work law. James Perialas, a teachers’ advocate, told The Mackinac Center this was “an example of passive bullying.” No wonder union numbers are down.
Pushing politics aside
Belle Isle continues to be a political football as the city and the state haggle over a lease for the island.
However, people who appreciate the invaluable island are proving that politics can’t stop them from improving facilities on the public gem. The Belle Isle Nature Zoo recently completed $1 million in renovations. Upgrades included new landscaping, lobby improvements and eco-friendly carpeting and paint. Opened in April 2005, the Belle Isle Nature Zoo was formerly the Nature Center, which was built in 1977.
The zoo features indoor animal habitats, a bee exhibit, bird observation window, turtle exhibit, outdoor butterfly garden, outdoor classrooms and the Blue Heron Lagoon nature trail.
Kudos to the Detroit Zoological Society, which operates both the island zoo and the main facility in Royal Oak. The work on Belle Isle shows that progress can be made if an organization’s focus stays positive and away from political maneuvering, which recently has yielded nothing but stagnation.
Vehicle miles traveled were down in 2012 for the eighth year in a row. Meanwhile, federal mpg mandates are forcing auto companies to offer more fuel-efficient and even non-gas guzzling electric vehicles. The resulting decline in gas tax revenue for road maintenance is sending nervous governments back to the drawing board to determine alternatives to the reliable old formula that has funded U.S. transportation for decades.
Charging by the mile has been the most talked-about alternative, and Oregon is the first to put it into practice. The state this year approved a phase-in of the tax that would be collected via a GPS device installed in your car, or by giving drivers the option of a flat fee pegged to the average number of miles traveled by state residents.
Privacy concerns about government black boxes in your ride has united groups as disparate as the tea party and ACLU. We’ll watch Oregon’s pilot experiment with interest. But for now, we’re more comfortable with our politicians selling us the traditional stew of higher gas taxes and vehicle registration fees (perhaps electrics pay a higher rate?) to fund our roads.