Michigan Gov. Whitmer’s Reinstated Prevailing Wage Rules Rewards Union Donors, Critics Say

Gov. Grethcen Whitmer announces that Michigan received a $10 million grant to support the state’s registered apprenticeship expansion efforts and increase employment opportunities for Michiganders.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s announcement this week that she is reinstating the state’s prevailing wage rules is drawing accusations that the move is nothing more than a sop to the governor’s extensive list of donors affiliated with organized labor.

“Governor Whitmer is putting campaign donors before Michigan’s hardworking taxpayers,” Eric Ventimiglia, executive director for Michigan Rising Action, said in a statement that included an extensive list of skilled trades unions that have contributed to the governor’s campaign war chest. “Hundreds of thousands of Michiganders worked to place this initiative in front of the legislature, and her unilateral decision to break the law is another example of Whitmer pandering to her highest donors.”

Among the donors listed by MRA are the Painters & Allied Trades Political Action Committee; Michigan Council of Carpenters PAC; Michigan State AFL-CIO; and several pipefitters unions.

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University of Michigan-Flint Grant to Support 300 Jobs, $10.4M Investment in Flint

The U.S. Secretary of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) awarded a $3.8 million Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) Recovery Assistance grant to the University of Michigan-Flint, Flint, to construct the university’s new College of Innovation and Technology.

The grant, to be matched with $4.9 million in local funds, is expected to create 126 jobs, retain 175 jobs, and generate $10.4 million in private investment.

“We are grateful to Secretary Raimondo and the Biden Administration for investing in University of Michigan-Flint’s College of Innovation and Technology,” Whitmer said in a statement. “This grant will help us usher in a new era of prosperity by supporting over 300 good-paying jobs and generating $10.4 million in private investment.” 

Mayor Sheldon Neeley welcomed the investment.

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Thousands of Public Workers Seek Vaccine Exemptions in Washington

Doctor with mask on holding COVID-19 Vaccine

Some 4,800 state employees in Washington have already requested medical or religious exemptions from Gov. Jay Inslee’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

According to information released this week by the state, those requests amount to nearly 8% of the 60,000 state workers who fall under Inslee’s 24 cabinet departments. As of Sept. 6, less than 50% of all employees in those agencies were verified as being fully vaccinated.

Inslee last month issued an executive order that all state employees, as well as K-12 and state university staff, must be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18 or face dismissal.

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Detroit Schools Reach New Contract with Union

Terrence Martin and

The Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD), Michigan’s largest public education system responsible for educating 51,000 children, has reached a new agreement with the Detroit Federation of Teachers (DFT) Local 231 on a two-year successor contract before starting the ’21-22 school year.

DPSCD Superintendent Dr. Nikolai Vitti and DFT President Terrance Martin agreed to terms on August 26, and DFT members ratified the agreement on September 1.

In August, the unit reached a safe reopening plan outlining the safety guidelines, additional hazards, and blended learning bonuses.

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Report: Afghan Women Forced into Marriages with Men Eligible for Evacuation

Afghan women in Kabul

Afghan women were reportedly forced into marriages with men who were eligible for evacuation from the country, CNN reported Thursday.

U.S. officials notified the State Department about some Afghan women and girls showing up with men pretending to be their husbands or after being forced into marriages with men eligible for evacuation, two sources familiar with the matter reportedly told CNN.

Some women are reportedly resorting to these unusual relationships in order to flee Taliban rule, CNN reported. Families of Afghan women at a transit hub in the United Arab Emirates arranged for such marriages at the Kabul international airport in Afghanistan so that women may leave, according to CNN.

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Michigan Lawmaker Calls on Unemployment Insurance Agency for Answers About Benefit Blunder

Rep. Steve Johnson

The leaders of the Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) knew as early as Jan. 6 they erred in developing qualifications for benefits, but didn’t tell the 700,000 Michiganders affected for nearly six months.

The Detroit News first broke the story.

After Jan. 6, the UIA tried to retroactively charge some benefit recipients up to $27,000 for the state’s mistake, instead of admitting it erred.

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Rieth-Riley Workers Win Settlements Against Union for Illegal Strike Retaliation

Rieth-Riley Construction paving a parking lot

Michigan Rieth-Riley Construction Company employees Rob Nevins and Jesse London won settlements against the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 324 union.

The settlements order IUOE union bosses not to discriminate against London and Nevins for leaving the union and pay $364 to London for owed health insurance premium.

The settlements stem from charges of retaliation the workers filed during the strike IUOE union bosses ordered in mid-2019. London and Nevins ended their union memberships and chose to keep working.

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Michigan Jobs 322,000 Under Pre-Pandemic Level

Detroit skyline at night

Sixteen months after the COVID-19 pandemic began, Michigan is still behind 322,000 jobs compared to pre-pandemic in Feb. 2020. 

Michigan’s seasonally adjusted jobless rate of 5% percent was unchanged in June, according to data released by the Michigan Department of Technology, Management & Budget.

“Michigan’s labor market indicators were little changed in June,” Wayne Rourke, the associate director of the Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives, said in a statement. “The Michigan unemployment rate has been near 5.0 percent for five consecutive months. Payroll job counts in June were similar to March levels.”

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Federal Reserve Chair: Inflation to be ‘Elevated for Months’

Jerome Powell

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell tried to calm lawmakers’ fears about rising inflation but also said it would probably remain elevated for months to come.

Testifying before Congress this week, Powell said the Federal Reserve was willing to step in to address the situation, but that inflation should level out next year.

“As always, in assessing the appropriate stance of monetary policy, we will continue to monitor the implications of incoming information for the economic outlook and would be prepared to adjust the stance of monetary policy as appropriate if we saw signs that the path of inflation or longer-term inflation expectations were moving materially and persistently beyond levels consistent with our goal,” Powell said in his prepared testimony.

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Gov. Whitmer Secures $10 Million Grant to Expand Employment Opportunities

A male doing electrical work with a ball cap and safety glasses on

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO) has been awarded a $10 million federal grant to support the state’s registered apprenticeship expansion efforts.

“As we put Michigan back to work, Registered Apprenticeship programs offer on-ramps to high-demand, high-skill careers, and in Michigan we have committed to expanding these educational opportunities to ensure more Michiganders can get good-paying jobs,” Whitmer said in a statement.

“Increasing access to education and training opportunities will help us achieve our 60 by 30 goal to have 60% of Michigan’s adult with post-secondary education or skills training by 2030, improve the quality of life and help Michiganders secure good-paying jobs, and ensure businesses have the workforce they need to succeed and grow our economy.” 

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Commentary: Unions’ Focus on Woke over Work Rankles Rank and File

Los Angeles school teacher Glenn Laird has been a union stalwart for almost four decades. He served as a co-chair of his school’s delegation to United Teachers Los Angeles and proudly wore union purple on the picket line.

But Laird is now suing to leave UTLA and demanding a refund of the dues the union has collected since his resignation request. His turning point came in July 2020 when the union, the second largest teachers union in the country, joined liberal activists to demand that Los Angeles defund the police in response to Black Lives Matter demonstrations.

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Gov. Abbott: Democratic Legislators to Be Arrested upon Return to Texas

Photo caption from Twitter says " Conversation Dan Patrick @DanPatrick Smiling House Dems fly off to DC on a private jet with a case of Miller Lite, breaking House quorum, abandoning their constituents, while the Senate still works. It’s my hope that Senate Dems report tomorrow to do what they were elected to do."

More than 60 House Democrats who fled Austin Monday to prevent a vote on election reforms will be arrested when they return to Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott said.

“Once they step back into the state of Texas, they will be arrested and brought to the Texas capital and we will be conducting business,” Abbott said.

The 67 Democratic lawmakers flew on chartered flights to Washington D.C. in protest of proposed legislation seeking to reduce the chances of fraud in future elections. The legislation is one of a number of measures being considered during a July special session called by Abbott.

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Michigan Employment Numbers Pick Up Pace for State’s Pandemic Recovery

Blue Collar worker with hard hat on

Michigan’s recovery from the massive unemployment endured during the COVID-19 pandemic is among the fastest in the country, last week’s employment numbers indicate.

That assessment is according to a recently released WalletHub report, which ranked the state fifth nationwide for progress made between the previous week and the week of June 21, 2021, and fourth nationwide for the smallest increase in initial unemployment claims between the beginning of 2020 and the week of June 21, 2021.

Michigan was ranked 13th nationwide for quickest unemployment recovery since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020.

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Largest Health Care Union to Fight Mandatory Vaccine Requirements for Workers

Doctor giving vaccination to patient

The president of the largest union of health care workers in the U.S. says it will fight companies requiring its members to have mandatory COVID-19 shots as a condition of employment.

The announcement came one day after Houston Methodist announced that 153 employees had been fired or resigned for refusing to get the shots as a condition of employment. Those suing argue requiring employees to receive a vaccine approved only through Emergency Use Authorization violates federal law. After a recent court dismissal, their attorney vowed to take the case all the way to the Supreme Court.

George Gresham, president of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, is weighing the organization’s legal options.

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Michigan Senate Votes to End $300 Weekly Federal Unemployment Benefits

The Michigan Senate voted 19-16 to approve House Bill 4434, which aims to end the state’s participation in boosted $300/week federal unemployment program.

Republicans have argued the benefit hinders economic recovery 15 months after the pandemic started.

Business owners told lawmakers on June 17 they can’t find workers, even after hiking pay, signing bonuses, and flexible hours. Some industries have seen as many as 35% of workers not return post-COVID-19, leaving some gas stations wondering if they’ll get enough gas.

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Michigan House Votes to Suspend $300 Weekly Federal Unemployment Payments

David Martin

The Michigan House of Representatives voted to approve House Bill 4434, which would end the state’s participation in the federal unemployment program.

The bill passed Thursday by a 350-49 vote, and now moves to the Michigan Senate.

House Republicans rallied hard behind the bill, which would immediately halt the federally funded $300 weekly boost to Michigan unemployment checks. The federal program currently is scheduled to cease in September, but legislators argue the additional money is hindering the state’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Michigan to Fully Open Tuesday

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has once again ditched her COVID-19 reopening plan, announcing the state will drop its COVID-19 restrictions on June 22. Her previous plan dropped restrictions on July 1.

“Today is a day that we have all been looking forward to, as we can safely get back to normal day-to-day activities and put this pandemic behind us,” Whitmer said in a statement.

Whitmer thanked those who received vaccinations. She also thanked medical staff and other frontline workers. 

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Activists Look to the Future of Oil Pipelines Following Keystone XL Cancellation

Anti Keystone XL pipeline citizens

After the cancellation of the Keystone XL Pipeline struck a blow to the oil industry, energy jobs activists are pushing back by warning of increased costs and touting the benefits of transporting oil via pipeline.

TC Energy Corporation announced on Wednesday that it was cancelling the Keystone XL Pipeline less than five months after President Joe Biden rescinded a vital permit for the pipeline. The cancellation ends an over 12-year battle by activists from both sides over the oil pipeline. The pipeline would have started in the Canadian province of Alberta ultimately ending in Nebraska.

In a statement François Poirier, President and CEO of TC Energy Corporation, expressed disappointment.

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Secretary of State Benson Adds 350,000 Appointments, Other Changes to Clear Backlog

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s offices are adding 350,000 appointments, greeters at office doors to assist in scheduling visits, and priority service for residents needing a disability placard to clear a 13-month backlog during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We were able to do this after discussions with our frontline workers who, concerned about the chatter here in Lansing to revert back to a broken ‘take a number and wait’ system, suggested ways they could work harder and faster to be able to handle more transactions efficiently and quickly,” Benson said at an in-person press conference. “It’s an extraordinary testament not just to their dedication to the department but their recognition that having residents schedule their visits ahead of time is a vastly superior way of doing business.” 

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Whitmer, Legislature Reach Deal on COVID-19 Restrictions, Collaborate Spending Billions

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

After 14 months of fighting over COVID-19 policy, GOP leaders and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer reached an agreement Thursday to negotiate the state budget and stimulus money in return for setting a date to end COVID-19 restrictions.

In return, Whitmer has agreed to withdraw the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (MIOSHA) proposed permanent rules and discuss legislative input on epidemic orders.

“Throughout the pandemic, we saw Michiganders all over the state step up and come together to slow the spread of COVID-19 and save lives,” Whitmer said in s statement. “Now, Michigan’s task is to unleash the potential of our people, to drive innovation and investment, and create tens of thousands of jobs and economic prosperity for all. Together, we can stay laser-focused on growing the economy and getting Michiganders back to work. Let’s hit the gas.”

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Michigan Business Leaders Expect Robust Economic Recovery, Return to Partial In-Person Work

Man in business suit walking on crosswalk in city

Michigan’s business leaders anticipate robust growth in the state’s economy within the next year.

They also plan a return to in-person office work in the 3rd and 4th quarters of 2021, according to a quarterly economic survey completed by Business Leaders for Michigan.

Approximately 92% of survey respondents say the state’s economy will likely remain strong and growing during the next six to 12 months.

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Controversy Surrounds Whitmer’s Secret Florida Flight

Gov. Whitmer

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is once again under fire for a Florida trip she took months ago.

The trip was partially paid for by a 501(c)4 group, which critics say presents legal questions.

Whitmer used funds from an inauguration-related nonprofit to pay for a $27,521 trip to Florida to visit her ailing father in March, MIRS News reported. “She continued to carry out her duties as governor while she assisted her father [in Florida] with household duties like cooking and cleaning,” JoAnne Huls, the governor’s chief of staff, wrote in a memo. “The governor’s flight was not a gift, not paid for at taxpayer expense, and was done in compliance with the law.”

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New Interim Teacher Certification Program Aims to Provide More Teachers of Color in Schools

State Superintendent Dr. Michael Rice

The Michigan Department of Education (MDE) has approved the New Paradigm for Education program to promote alternative teacher certification in the state.

New Paradigm will offer a residency-based alternative route to teacher certification to recruit, train, and retain high-quality educators, particularly teachers of color and male teachers of color.

“We continue to work beyond conventional methods to help address the gaps in the teacher workforce,” State Superintendent Dr. Michael Rice said in a statement. “There is a substantial teacher shortage in Michigan, which is even more acute for teachers of color.”

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Michigan House Oversight Committee Considers Legislation to Ban Vaccine Passports

Mask on passport Vaccination card on blue background

The Michigan House Oversight Committee convened Thursday to discuss a bill that aims to ban vaccination passports, sparking heated debate on the topic.

The committee specifically focused its discussion on House Bill 4667. Introduced by bill sponsor Rep. Sue Allor, R-Wolverine, the bill would prohibit “a governmental entity from producing, issuing or providing an incentive for a COVID-19 vaccination passport.”

However, the meeting also prompted testimony from a variety of guests who defended their personal decisions to not receive any of the three available COVID-19 vaccines. Most cited the Federal Drug Administration’s emergency authorization of the vaccines does not equate to the agency’s explicit approval.

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Small Businesses Say Big Labor’s PRO Act Would Put Them Under

Rally goer holds up a "Small Business fighting for survival" sign

The Biden Administration sent some stock prices tumbling and left small businesses worried after taking sides on a hotly contested labor issue that critics say could threaten the jobs of millions of independent workers and thousands of small businesses.

In his address to the nation Wednesday evening, President Joe Biden called on Congress to pass legislation that would ban the use of freelance workers in most instances.

A report from the freelance site UpWork found that about 59 million gig workers make up $1.2 trillion of the U.S. economy.

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Hawley Cites ‘Culture War’ in Proposal for Monthly Payments to Families with Children

Josh Hawley

Rising Republican star U.S. Rep. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., is sponsoring a new measure that would give unprecedented tax cuts to parents with children, and now he is saying his bill is on the front line of the nation’s “culture war.”

The plan in question would give a fully refundable tax credit of $12,000 for married parents and $6,000 for single parents who have children under the age of 13.

“Starting a family and raising children should not be a privilege only reserved for the wealthy,” Hawley said. “Millions of working people want to start a family and would like to care for their children at home, but current policies do not respect these preferences. American families should be supported, no matter how they choose to care for their kids.”

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Secretary of State Benson Calls on Lawmakers to Revamp SOS Services, Give Unspecified Amount of Money

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson on Thursday asked for an unspecified amount of money to completely revamp the Michigan Department of State (MDOS).

The money would be used to provide “pop-up” offices, provide virtual interactions instead of in-person, and pass other laws that would result in less interaction with the department.

“Michiganders can now complete most of their transactions online, by mail or at one of our new self-service stations located at their local grocery store,” Benson said. “And the remaining in-person transactions are carried out by appointment, ensuring the vast majority of customers have little to no wait time.”

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Michigan’s New Unemployment Director Faces Questions from House Oversight Committee

Michigan’s Unemployment Insurance Agency Director Liza Estlund Olson was grilled Thursday morning by the state House Oversight Committee.

Committee members asked pointed questions about recent revelations relating to the departure of Olson’s predecessor, Steve Gray, in November. Gray received a $76,626 payout and another $9,246 in attorney fees and signed a confidentiality agreement with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration.

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Michigan Gov. Whitmer Administration Gave Former MEDC CEO Jeff Mason a $128,500 Severance Payout

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration paid former CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corp. (MEDC) Jeff Mason $128,500 –26 weeks of pay – to “retire” last year.

The Detroit News reported Mason’s deal was among eight other employees separated from MEDC, bringing the total cost of payouts to $308,623 over the last four years. Those agreements included non-disparagement clauses limiting ex-employees from diminishing the MEDC’s reputation.

However, agency employees said the deals weren’t funded by taxpayer money.

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Ducey Removes Arizona’s COVID-19 Restrictions on Businesses

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has rescinded the business restrictions he put in place last year to stem the spread of COVID-19. 

Ducey’s latest executive order, which he signed Friday, removes the capacity limits on businesses he had put in place July 9, effective immediately. 

“We’ve learned a lot over the past year,” Ducey said. “Our businesses have done an excellent job at responding to this pandemic in a safe and responsible way. We will always admire the sacrifice they and their employees have made and their vigilance to protect against the virus.”

Ducey said Arizona, unlike many other states, never shut down.

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Commentary: New COVID Checks Could Lead to End of Work as We Know It

The House has voted to expand direct payments to the American people from $600 per adult and $600 per child in the year-end Covid relief legislation signed into law by President Donald Trump, to $2,000 per adult and $600 per child, a move the President supports.

Under the newly signed law, an average family of four will be receiving a $2,400 check via direct deposit from the U.S. Treasury, coming atop the $3,400 they received in the CARES Act in the spring — a combined $5,800 in 2020 alone.

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Whitmer Extends Suspension Requirements of Youth Work Permit Application

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer extended an executive order last week that temporarily suspended certain requirements relating to the youth work permit for Michigan workers.

The order allows suspends applications “to the extent it requires an application of a work permit to be made in person,” according to the order. It allows applications to be submitted by mail, email, fax or a web-based form.

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