The middle class isn’t the enemy — it’s the engine that drives our economy, pumping money into local small businesses and creating jobs. Yet Lansing politicians and corporate special interests are eroding the middle class by passing laws that help rich CEOs and attack basic collective bargaining rights.
Michiganders already are suffering, thanks to the actions of politicians in Lansing, who over the last year have passed laws that hurt children, seniors and families while doing nothing to jump-start our economy. It was just a year ago when they cut more than $1 billion from local K-12 schools and raised taxes on senior citizens, just to pay for a $1.8 billion tax giveaway for corporate special interests like insurance companies, big banks and oil companies.
Now politicians have about 80 bills sitting in the halls of the State Capitol that take clear aim at the workplace rights of people like teachers, firefighters, and nurses. These include bills that would: impose so-called Right to Work laws for teachers, and create new restrictions on workers’ abilities to peacefully demonstrate during a labor dispute. All of these bills – and dozens more — would weaken basic protections for working men and women, and dismantle our collective bargaining rights.
Enough is enough. A coalition of middle-class families is joining together and taking a stand. Grass-roots volunteers across Michigan are gathering signatures to put a constitutional amendment on the November ballot that will enshrine into the Michigan Constitution the basic right of every worker to collective bargaining. More information about this initiative can be found at protectourjobs.com.
Collective bargaining gives people the ability to come together and negotiate fair contracts, and help protect jobs, wages, benefits and safety for all workers. Without these basic collective bargaining protections, CEOs can fire people for no reason, cut people’s wages, eliminate retirement and health care benefits, and outsource jobs to countries such as China and Mexico.
Undermining basic collective bargaining rights won’t do a thing to jump-start our state’s economy. Instead, attacking collective bargaining will further weaken the middle class, harm small businesses and send even more jobs overseas.
The politicians and CEOs who favor weakening or ending collective bargaining say that cutting people’s wages will somehow encourage more businesses to come to Michigan. That’s simply not true. What the special interests behind efforts to weaken collective bargaining really want is a license to outsource jobs — just to pad their own profits.
Without basic collective bargaining rights, big corporations will get even richer while small businesses suffer. Weakening middle-class families’ wages ultimately means fewer trips to local small businesses like hardware stores and movie theaters. Without a middle-class customer base, small businesses will close and more jobs will disappear.
Attacking collective bargaining also hurts our kids. When teachers like me and school employees are stripped of our basic rights at the workplace, the quality of education suffers. Qualified teachers leave their jobs for other careers or teaching jobs in other states. The best and brightest future teachers leave the state right after graduation. Michigan kids end up paying the price.
The middle class was created right here in Michigan — and now it’s being smashed.
It’s time that middle class people speak out to protect their wages, benefits and workplace safety from continued attacks by politicians in Lansing.
Jeff Bean is a high school teacher with Flint Community Schools, and a leader with the Protect Our Jobs campaign, an effort supported by We Are the People, a labor advocacy group.