The bespectacled Ms. Salters joined about 1,000 union members protesting at the state Capitol March 20. This resulted in 14 arrests and at least one felony charge. Some protesters slept in cardboard boxes March 26, calling it a “Snyderville” demonstration in an imitation of “Hooverville,” the shanty towns built during the Great Depression.
Salters was quoted as saying the new state Senate’s emergency financial manager bill, which gave these managers the power to terminate union contracts, was “just like being in the slave days.” Ms. Salters is black. Seemingly, the race card must be played at some point in such protests.
“It is an embarrassment to families everywhere to have a top union boss stoop to such uncivil levels, and it is insulting to those who suffered under slavery,” said Beth DeShone, the Great Lakes Education Project advocacy director.
The Livingston Daily Press in Michigan quoted State Rep. Bill Rogers, a Republican, as seeing the MEA’s possible call for a strike “unconscionable.” Rogers is chairman of the K-12 appropriations Committee. He added that “it smells like a strike to me.”
A bill has been approved by the Michigan House that would, when a contract has expired, suspend teacher step increases and require teachers to bear more of the cost of their health insurance.
In Salters’ letter to her union members, she complained that one bill in the state legislature “would destroy the collective bargaining rights of our members and the local control of democratically elected bodies in school districts, cities, and other local government entities that are in ‘financial crisis’.”
She griped that another bill “would mandate that school districts request bids to outsource all transportation, custodial and food service work, threatening the livelihoods of tens of thousands of dedicated education support professionals.
“Bills are being considered,” she warned her members, “to require all school employees to pay at least 20 percent of their health insurance premiums and slash your salary by 5 percent.”
Some professionals in other fields pay a higher percentage of their health insurance costs.
Under the Comstock, MI, public schools teachers union contract, as a contract example, the average teacher salary was $55,826 in February 2011. The district provides health benefits costing $14,724 for the most commonly selected plan, which is 42 percent more costly than insurance provided to the average private sector worker in the state. Teachers contribute a mere 2 percent toward their coverage. This compares with 20 percent average contribution required from private sector workers in Michigan, according to the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.
An attachment to Salters’ letter labeled “Job Action Authorization,” the teachers were asked to support the proposed resolution of the union board. The attachment told the teachers they should be willing “to risk the loss of pay, and possibly, the loss of your employment.”
The attachment also said: “Your working conditions are those students’ learning conditions.” What a stretch.
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