Educators had numerous workplace rights stripped away from them by the previous governor and Legislature more than a decade ago — and you can draw a direct line between those mean-spirited attacks on school employees and today’s shortage of teachers, education support professionals, school mental health professionals, and other critical positions.
But times have changed. On top of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s re-election last November, she now has a pro-education majority in both the House and Senate. Since taking office in January, the new majority has introduced numerous bills designed to restore educators’ collective bargaining rights and improve working conditions for school employees and other everyday Michiganders. After all, our working conditions are our students’ learning conditions.
Here’s a rundown of the labor bills moving in the Legislature:
- HB 4044: This would repeal Public Act 54 of 2011’s automatic penalties on employees when a contract expires without a successor agreement. This bill had a recent hearing where numerous frontline educators testified.
- HB 4354: This restores some subjects of bargaining that were prohibited by PAs 103 and 260 of 2011, including performance evaluation standards; merit pay standards; decisions on layoff, recall, hiring and position eliminations; classroom observation; teacher placement; evaluation; discipline; and discharge.
- HB 4355: This legislation is a “trailer bill” to HB 4354 that makes related amendments to the school aid act of 1979.
- HB 4356: This bill amends the Public Employee Relations Act (PERA) by repealing a provision that prohibits bargaining over contracting out or privatizing non-instructional services.
- HB 4357: This legislation is a “trailer bill” to HB 4356 that makes related amendments to the School Aid Act of 1979.
- HB 4233: This bill would repeal PA 53 of 2012, which prohibits school districts from collecting union dues or fees via payroll deduction – which is allowed for all public- and private-sector employees aside from school employees.
In addition, lawmakers are considering SB 169, which would require public employers to share with local unions specified employment and contact information for the employees they represent, and SB 185, which would grant graduate student research assistants the ability to unionize.
MEA lobbyists also are continuing to work on evaluation reform, with an expectation that legislation will be introduced soon. And we are also working on legislation to repeal or improve PA 152 – which limited the amount districts may contribute toward employees’ health insurance – with the goal of reducing out-of-pocket costs for school employees.
Read more from MEA President Paula Herbart in the Detroit News: “Lawmakers must restore educators’ voice in the workplace.”