Collective bargaining has been demonized and weakened by Michigan Republicans in the past year. In fact, Republicans seemed poised to try to kill collective bargaining all together this year with “right-to-work” legislation. However, collective bargaining continues to prove that it works, and lets hope that right will prevail over wrong this calendar year.
As proof that collective bargaining works, take a look at the Pine River Area Schools district. This past year collective bargaining brought about a 28% reduction in the cost of insurance. That is better than the 20% savings that districts got when the Governor circumvented the collective bargaining process with a mandated 20% insurance contribution. Collective bargaining can also bring about changes that are not monetary in nature. In Pine River, the process brought about the observance of Martin Luther King Jr. day thanks to the work of one dedicated teacher.
Tiyi Shippers, an elementary music teacher, set out on a mission to get the school district to observe MLK day after a student suggested the day wasn’t observed because of a lack of tolerance in the community. Mrs. Shippers spoke with the school board and then with the teachers union about her concerns. After an overwhelming vote of support by the teachers union, the negotiating team bargained for the day off as part of a new contract. Less than a year after Mrs. Shipper’s began her quest, she stood in a library that was anything but silent. The noise of sewing machines and the voices of over 100 people filled the room as they turned pillow cases into dresses for women in Haiti. Elsewhere in the community kids were helping shovel driveways and collecting canned goods for a local food pantry. All around Martin Luther King’s message of service to others was being put in action.
None of what happened in Pine River would have happened without collective bargaining. Collective bargaining encourages people to work together to solve common problems. It empowers people to make improvements in their work place. It should be no surprise that Martin Luther King Jr. was a proponent of collective bargaining. He called the “right-to-work” agenda a “fraud” that must “be stopped.” Today we honor Dr. King’s memory, this year we need to honor his message by stopping the “right-to-work” for less legislation.