Column: Protect Michigan’s civil servants
Michigan’s working families need leaders who will have our backs and work together to build an economy that works for everyone, not just the wealthy. But a new proposal in Lansing would rig the rules of state government against 35,000 hard-working civil servants like nurses, social workers and bridge inspectors.
One week from today, the Michigan Civil Service Commission will vote on a measure that would take away the freedom from civil servants to negotiate together for important job protections like overtime pay, seniority, and grievances.
These unfair rule changes will make state government less efficient and less accountable by giving the governor more power to dictate working conditions, and by filling vital positions with his unskilled political cronies instead of well-trained civil servants who have dedicated their careers to serving Michigan taxpayers.
This latest attack on civil servants is part of a larger agenda by the governor and Republicans in Lansing to take away the freedoms people in unions have won for all of us.
Lansing Republicans have had their sights set on state employees for years, but since the legislature can’t re-write civil service rules without a two-thirds supermajority, the governor and his corporate donors are trying to short circuit the process by having the Civil Service Commission approve these rule changes themselves.
The Civil Service Commission is comprised of four Commissioners – three who were appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder, and one who was appointed by former Gov. Jennifer Granholm. That means these drastic rule changes could be approved by a vote of just three people who were appointed by a governor who has spent the past seven years attacking working people.
And unlike our state legislators, these Commissioners don’t have to answer to Michigan voters on Election Day.
Since he took office in 2011, Snyder has signed one bill after another that makes it harder for working people to speak up together for better workplaces. The Emergency Manager law and so-called “right-to-work” were specifically designed to take away our freedom to negotiate together for good jobs, strong paychecks and affordable health care. That’s just wrong.
All working people deserve the same freedom corporate CEOs have: the freedom to negotiate together for a fair return on our work so we can provide for our families.
And with corporate lobbyists and elected officials rigging the rules of our economy, we need the power in numbers of unions more than ever to protect things our families need, like clean and safe workplaces, time to care for loved ones when they get sick, and a secure retirement. Taking these freedoms away from our civil servants would be bad for families, bad for taxpayers, and bad for Michigan.
Before next Wednesday’s meeting, Michigan’s Civil Service Commissioners – James Barrett, Jase Bolger, Janet McClelland, and Robert Swanson – need to do some serious soul-searching. They need to ask themselves what’s more important: doing what’s best for our civil servants and taxpayers, or doing the bidding of corporate CEOs who want to rig the rules of state government against working families?
The choice should be easy. The Civil Service Commission should protect our nurses, social workers, and bridge inspectors working in tough civil service jobs, and vote to reject these unfair rules.
Ron Bieber is president of the Michigan AFL-CIO.
Labor Voices columns are written on a rotating basis by United Auto Workers President Dennis Williams, Teamsters President James Hoffa, Michigan AFL-CIO President Ron Bieber and Michigan Education Association President Steven Cook.