The group looking to repeal the state’s prevailing wage law announced they turned in 390,000 signatures to the state today.

Protecting Michigan Taxpayers made the announcement via a press release. Its legislative initiative petition to take prevailing wage off the books was approved to form back in May (See “Prevailing Wage Repeal Initiative Approved For Signature Collecting,” 5/26/15).

To be approved by the Board of State Canvassers and sent to the Legislature first for action, the petition needs to have 252,523 valid signatures.

It’ll take a few months for the Secretary of State’s (SOS) Bureau of Elections to sift through the signatures and make a recommendation to the canvassers, said SOS spokesperson Fred WOODHAMS, who confirmed the group turned in 390,959 signatures today.

“Nearly 400,000 voters have signed their names on the dotted line to demand that government spend their tax dollars more wisely,” said Chris FISHER, vice president of Protecting Michigan Taxpayers and president of Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) of Michigan, in a statement. “Taxpayers’ message couldn’t be clearer — it’s time to repeal the prevailing wage law costing our schools and communities millions.”

A coalition that supports prevailing wage — known as Protect Michigan Jobs and made up of unions — has also formed, but so far has been watching the other side “very carefully,” said coalition spokesperson Dave WAYMIRE.

Waymire alleged that petition gatherers for Protecting Michigan Taxpayers were misleading people signing the petitions, saying they were told, “this proposal would lower the cost of education in Michigan. They were told it would raise the minimum wage.”

Asked if he’s heard these stories, Fisher said he’s heard Protect Michigan Jobs “complaining” about this and said it’s “ludicrous” that “somehow 400,000 Michigan citizens don’t know what they’re signing.”

On the cost of education piece, Fisher did mention that an “economic benefit” of repealing prevailing wage is that it makes education construction more affordable.

Waymire’s outfit sent out a press release later in the day, saying it has “evidence” that signers were “lied to by collectors.”

“That has been a hallmark of this campaign to lower construction worker pay and benefits in Michigan from the start,” the statement read. “We know from survey research that Michigan voters are strongly opposed to this campaign to reduce working men and women’s pay. We also know that the groups ABC claims to be helping are opposed to this proposal. The Michigan Association of School Boards and Michigan Association of School Administrators have both passed resolutions to oppose elimination of prevailing wage policies.”

Fisher made sure to mention that his group has filed a complaint with the SOS Bureau of Elections concerning Protect Michigan Jobs’ campaign finance filings (See “Pro-Prevailing Wage Repeal Campaign Files SOS Complaint,” 8/27/15).

Woodhams’ only update today was that the Bureau of Elections is investigating the complaint.

Protect Michigan Jobs’ quarterly report didn’t show any funds raised or spent. Protecting Michigan Taxpayers had $457,278 in the bank for its July quarterly report, having raised a cumulative $1 million this election cycle, primarily coming from ABC and the Michigan Freedom Fund.

A good chunk of Protecting Michigan Taxpayers’ expenditures went to Silver Bullet Group, listed as a signature-gathering firm on the group’s filings.

With regards to whether Protect Michigan Jobs will file its own petition to counter the prevailing wage repealers, Waymire said all options are still on the table.

But Waymire didn’t express concern over the possibility that the prevailing wage repeal could go to the ballot.

“If they do have enough signatures, we welcome the chance to discuss this on the ballot,” Waymire said.

Waymire added that he believes the Legislature won’t act on the petition, saying he doesn’t think the votes are there.

A state labor leader is reporting for the first time that a dialogue between business and labor has commenced with the goal of avoiding a battle over the prevailing wage repeal and the proposed boost in the Corporate Income Tax (CIT).

When three unions announced a petition drive to boost the CIT from six to 11 percent, and when the corporate world loudly protested, Pat Devlin from the Building Trades Union delivered a missive to all sides calling for a truce in the harsh rhetoric and a call for all sides to sit down and find some common ground.

Devlin reported the dialogue has commenced with the Business Leaders for Michigan and possibly other labor groups and he reported all sides plan to “get together after Labor Day” to continue the talks.

“We are trying to make sense of these issues,” he told MIRS, but there is no agreement on how to handle this at the moment.

Ultimately, he said the ideal solution would be for both sides to drop their current petition drives, thus maintaining the status quo.

CIT organizer Mike JACKSON, executive secretary treasurer of the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights, recently indicated that he would be willing to meet with business and everything would be on the table, including slapping a hold on the CIT petition drive.

Chris FISHER, president of the Associated Business and Contractors (ABC), who is pushing the repeal of prevailing wage, said Thursday there is “no way” he’d sign off on dropping his petition in exchange for the deep-freeze of the CIT proposal.

“These are completely separate issues,” Fisher said. “Michigan citizens deserve safe and reliable and dependable roads and trying to hold up good, solid road funding legislation by tying it in with other issues is irresponsible and a disservice to Michigan citizens.”

Left to their own devices, Devlin said he feels unions and business have a record of working together, but it’s the current legislature, he said, that has complicated the relationship between the two sides.

On the issue of having both sides drop the petition drives, which are in mid-stream, he optimistically observes, “anything is possible.”

 

Senate Majority Leader Arlan MEEKHOF (R-West Olive) and House Speaker Kevin COTTER (R-Mt. Pleasant) took a road trip to Missouri on Thursday to talk to lawmakers about Michigan’s experience since passing Right to Work in 2012.

The trip was put together by former House Speaker Jase BOLGER from the West Michigan Policy Forum, who received a call from former Missouri House Speaker Tim JONES about the possibility of putting something together.

Bolger and Sen. Margaret O’BRIEN (R-Portage) joined Meekhof and Cotter on the road trip, which included an event at which the foursome talked to about 15-20 Missouri lawmakers one-on-one, Bolger said.

The Missouri legislature sent a Right to Work bill to Democratic Gov. Jay NIXON, which he promptly vetoed. Now Republican leaders are trying to override Nixon’s veto on Sept. 16 during a special session.

Bolger said it would be a “big hill to climb,” but the former speaker said he thought it might be helpful if Missouri legislators learned how a “pro-worker” Right to Work law in Michigan made unions more accountable to its members.

“There is nothing wrong with sharing the story of freedom and why Right to Work is good and empowers Michigan workers,” he said.

AFL-CIO President Ron BIEBER didn’t see things that way during today’s recording of the MIRS Monday podcast, saying “What do our legislative leaders care about in Missouri more than fixing the problems that we have in Michigan?”

“This is the problem with our legislative process today,” Bieber said. “The legislative leadership is out in Missouri right now, trying to help those Republicans and others in the legislature on their Right to Work effort instead of being in Michigan working on a road package that’s fair and we can pass through this Legislature.

“There’s something inherently wrong when that kind of stuff is going on.”

To those comments, Meekhof responded, “How does Mr. Bieber know we weren’t working on a road package.”

Without getting into specifics, Meekhof said “roads did come up” during the car ride to and from Missouri and that we “continue to make progress.”

However, Meekhof said spreading the message of the economic and worker freedom for everyone in the United States that comes from Right to Work is an important one to share.

“It’s been a good thing in Michigan,” he said. “We’ve seen more union membership than we had before Right to Work. It didn’t destroy the unions. It made them more accountable to the people they serve. It’s made a positive environment for job creation.”

Bolger tweeted a picture of Cotter, Meekhof, O’Brien and himself from the car on Thursday, which generated some reaction from Progress Michigan Executive Director Lonnie SCOTT and Michigan Democratic Party Chair Brandon DILLON.

“How were the roads in Missouri?” Dillon tweeted in response to Bolger’s picture.

“Because the Republican Legislature has been so productive this year . . . #goodgrief,” Dillon wrote in another.

Scott asked who was paying for the trip, which Bolger later responded was not anyone from Michigan.

Bolger called the shots “petty.” Republicans didn’t make hay about House Minority Leader Tim GREIMEL (D-Auburn Hills) or U.S. Rep. Gary PETERS (D-Bloomfield Twp.) going on separate overseas trips (See “13 Lawmakers Off To Israel,” 7/31/15) (See “Peters Headed To Middle East, Remains Mum On Iran Deal,” 9/3/15).

“This is the type of petty politics that people don’t need and don’t benefit anything,” Bolger told MIRS.

Bieber said the Right to Work attacks unions have experienced from large national corporate interests “haven’t taken a toll on us, yet.”

“We’ll see what the long-term effects of Right to Work and other bad legislation is on us, but so far we’re standing strong.”

Bieber said his member unions haven’t brought up dips in membership to him. The law doesn’t take effect until contracts expire and so “time will tell.” However, from what he’s seen, Right to Work hasn’t had the desired impact that supporters thought it would so “it’s not really at the top of our priority list.

“People who are fortunate enough to be covered by a collective bargaining agreement see the value in that. It’s the people on the outside who want to tear that down,” he said.

RE-REGISTRATION is happening NOW.

From September 1-20th, members must re-register for the Out of Work List. If you are currently on the Out of Work List, you need to re-register in order to hold your spot.

Directions on how to register:

email: registerlocal80@gmail.com your name, member number, address & current cell phone/phone number

OR

fax: 248-557-0297 your name, member number, address & current cell phone/phone number

OR

come to the hall & sign the book!

RE-REGISTRATION is happening NOW.

From September 1-20th, members must re-register for the Out of Work List. If you are currently on the Out of Work List, you need to re-register in order to hold your spot.

Directions on how to register:

email: registerlocal80@gmail.com your name, member number, address & current cell phone/phone number

OR

fax: 248-557-0297 your name, member number, address & current cell phone/phone number

OR

come to the hall & sign the book!


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