FIRST PERSON | Michigan fought long and hard to become a union state. Yet our legislature has passed two right-to-work bills Tuesday, pushed through in a lame-duck session. There was no open debate on the floor. It was, instead, a rush to action. Instead of representatives paying attention to the estimated 10,000 protesters outside the capital, the people who elected them, the house moved quickly to squash their voice.
I'm not in a union, so how does this affect me? My husband, a union teacher, was at work Tuesday. My mother, a union teacher, also went to work Tuesday. They are working for the betterment of your children. My husband, a guidance counselor in an urban district, lost sleep debating whether to go to work, or go to Lansing. While he feels that the legislation is wrong, he did not get into education to become involved in politics. He got into education in order make a difference in the lives of his students.
Recently, however, he's had to become involved in politics. My husband works long days, usually around 10 hours. Often times, he's there 12 to 13 hours. While others maintain he gets a "summer off," they don't realize that we are paying out of pocket for him to continue his education, to maintain his license. This is all while he hasn't had a raise in three years. Last year, he took an additional 10 percent pay cut. We also now have to pay around 25 percent more for our benefits. When you add it up, that's a 35 percent cut in wages, without so much as a cost-of-living raise. If he didn't have a union, it could have been far worse.
According to the AFL-CIO, right-to-work states the workers make on average $1,540 less per year. These workers are also more likely to be uninsured. When it comes to education, right-to-work states spend on average $3,392 less per pupil. Students are also less likely to be performing at their appropriate grade level in math and reading.
While teachers are devoted to caring for your children, the union has been there caring for them. Unfortunately, the unions have once again taken a hit. The effects of right-to-work in Michigan have yet to be seen. Still, teachers wonder, how much more can they give?