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AFSCME Power on Full Display in the Michigan Legislature

Photo Credit: Getty / Mike Kline
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When public service workers join together through their unions and speak in one voice, they can achieve big victories for working people – even under unfavorable circumstances.

That was the case in the Michigan Legislature over the holidays, when hundreds of AFSCME members fought hard to derail anti-worker measures proposed by the majority party, and won.

One measure would’ve required Michigan workers to hold union “recertification” elections every two years. It would’ve made it harder for workers to join together to fight for better working conditions and to improve the services they provide their communities.

The other measure – the so-called “release time” bill – would’ve prevented workers and employers from negotiating paid leave to work out employee contracts, resolve worker-management disputes and take other steps to make workplaces more efficient.

The anti-worker majority wanted to ram through those and other harmful bills during the lame duck session – before a pro-worker governor, attorney general and secretary of state took office on Jan. 1, and before their own numbers in the House and the Senate were diminished due to losses in the November elections.

Members of AFSCME Council 25 and partner unions sent thousands of emails and letters and made numerous phone calls to state legislators to thwart bad bills that would’ve allowed corporate-backed politicians to tip the scales of power toward wealthy special interests.

The lame duck legislature adjourned on Dec. 21 without taking final action on either the recertification or the release time bills – an early Christmas present for workers throughout Michigan.

“Only because of your efforts we were able to shoot down the most harmful bills that were trying to kill our union,” Council 25 President Lawrence Roehrig wrote in a message to members. “Friendly legislators heard our voices loud and clear and even some not so friendly legislators were impressed and held accountable because they had to answer to you! Because of you, everybody learned that here in Michigan, AFSCME will never quit.”