Snyder disrespects school employees, again
Just when we thought Gov. Rick Snyder couldn’t sink any lower in his performance as Michigan’s governor, he’s surprised us again.
Snyder has announced that he will appeal a recent decision ordering the state to return money illegally withheld from the paychecks of over 200,000 Michigan public school employees. The case, brought by MEA and AFT Michigan, sought the return of more than $550 million taken from school employee paychecks between 2010-2012. The money was supposed to help fund health care in retirement — even though there was no guarantee that employees would receive that benefit.
This suit against the state started five years ago. The state initially lost in trial court. It appealed to the Court of Appeals. The state lost again. Both of those courts agreed that withholding 3 percent of school employee wages violated state and federal constitutional protections of preserving private property and due process. The state then asked the Michigan Supreme Court to hear the case. Instead, after a two year wait, the Supreme Court sent the case back to the Court of Appeals, which issued the most recent decision in favor of school employees in early June.
This latest appeal is especially appalling given the state lost a similar case brought by state employee unions on behalf of their members. Those workers were refunded their illegally held wages — four years ago — while school employees are still waiting for their hard-earned money.
While the governor hasn’t been kind to state employees, he seems to have particular animus for school employees. After five years of litigation and defeats in three separate court decisions, the governor’s appeal of this case is not only misguided, but mean-spirited.
Even Attorney General Bill Schuette, who is no friend of public school employees or their unions, declined to represent Snyder in this latest appeal. Unfortunately, Schuette wasted tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars on the previous three cases and appeals, fighting to keep school employees’ money in the state’s bank account. So, when it comes to frivolous lawsuits, Schuette is only one behind the governor on our scorecard.
Within days of the most recent Court of Appeals decision, MEA and AFT Michigan members delivered 33,000 petition signatures to the governor’s office urging him not to file yet another appeal. His decision to the contrary seems to be part of his “accountant’s” approach to governing —a n approach that has caused pain and suffering in communities statewide.
In Flint, his desire to save money cost lives and poisoned children.
In Detroit, his decision to appoint emergency managers to improve the district’s financial condition has only made the situation worse and left city schools in dangerous disrepair.
Now, his decision to fight the rightful return of wages unconstitutionally taken from hard-working school employees is wasting more taxpayer money on another frivolous lawsuit.
The governor’s disrespect for the dedicated individuals who serve in our public schools has been clear since his early days in office. However, his continued efforts to deny school employees the return of their 3 percent takes that disrespect to a new level. It is shameful and unconscionable that he has decided to prolong this fight and continue his attack on school employees across the state.
We hope Snyder reconsiders and drops this appeal. But if that doesn’t happen, we hope the Supreme Court acts swiftly to uphold the lower court rulings so that justice can finally be delivered.
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.