Send a message to WI Gov. Walker on May 4: 'Not in our backyard!'
Join the demonstration on Monday, May 4 in Novi to tell Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker that his anti-union, anti-worker and anti-middle class policies are not welcome here in Michigan. Walker will be in Novi attending an Oakland County Republican Party's Lincoln Day dinner.
The demonstration, organized by the Novi Education Association, will begin at 6 p.m. at Rock Financial Show Place, 46100 Grand River Ave., Novi. Participants are encouraged to arrive at least 15 minutes early. Parking is available at Gatsby's restaurant across the street, and at Kroger or Staples on Grand River.
Demonstrators are encouraged to bring their own signs with messages like, Walker: Wrong for the Middle Class; Not in my backyard; Walker is Too Extreme; and Go Home, Walker.
Walker is considering a run for President in 2016. Since first elected in 2010, he is best known for his efforts to strip public workers of their union rights. He survived a recall election and was reelected in 2014.
The Ellis Family
The Michigan Education Association Spring Representative Assembly was opened by a stirring rendition of the Star Spangled Banner performed by the Ellis family. MEA-Retired members Jack and Joellyn Ellis, were accompanied by their children and grandchildren. Their children, Jonathon and Michele Grands are current active teachers in the MEA and they were joined by their daughters Jenna and Maya Grands. Click on the video to enjoy this rendition of the national anthem performed by the Ellis family.
Why Unions Matter
Earl Eliason, an active MEA-Retired member, from the Upper Peninsula, wrote a compelling message explaining why paying your dues and staying with MEA is so important. He describes what being a school employee was like before members worked together with the union to secure the benefits that school employees now enjoy. Earl serves on the MEA-Retired Board of Directors as well as the Executive Committee.
Still no decision on PA 75's 3 percent retiree health care provision
The Supreme Court is still holding off deciding whether school employees have to pay an extra 3 percent into a fund for retiree health insurance with no guarantee that the benefits will be available when they retire.
In 2010, MEA challenged PA 75's requirement saying it violated school employees' federal and state constitutional rights by "impairing the contract" formed when MPSERS was set up in 1980.
In 2011, Court of Claims Judge James Giddings agreed with MEA, and put the money into an interest-bearing escrow account until the issue was fully settled. Gov. Snyder appealed the decision to the Michigan Supreme Court, where the case still sits.
But, last week, the Michigan Supreme Court did rule that PA 300, requiring public school employees to contribute to their pension and retiree benefits, is not unconstitutional. The decision is in response to a suit brought by labor unions representing public school employees challenging PA 300 of 2012.
Under PA 300, MPSERS members have to contribute 4 percent to their pensions, while employees hired between Jan. 1990 and July 2010 and MIP members pay 7 percent. Those members who opt out can take a lower multiplier or move into a defined contribution plan. Members also must pay 3 percent to receive retiree healthcare benefits.
While there are similarities in the lawsuits against PA 300 and PA 75, the Supreme Court emphasized that in their decision regarding PA 300, "we address only 2012 PA 300 and do not decide whether the Court of Appeals correctly held that 2010 PA 75 violated those same provisions."
In response, MEA General Counsel Mike Shoudy said, "We remain hopeful that the Court will rule in favor of public school employees regarding our legal challenge to PA 75 which resulted in the mandatory taking of 3 percent of our members' hard-earned money despite prior commitments."
Supreme Court upholds PA 300 on teacher pension, retiree benefits
Court still holds PA 75 in abeyance
The Michigan Supreme Court ruled Thursday that requiring public school employees to contribute to their pension and retiree benefits is not unconstitutional. The decision is in response to a suit brought by labor unions representing public school employees challenging PA 300 of 2012 which amended the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement Act (MPSERA).
"We are disappointed by the decision of the Michigan Supreme Court. School employees deserve respect from their elected leaders and fair compensation for the critically important services they perform. In our opinion, Public Act 300 degrades the work performed by these professionals," said Mike Shoudy MEA General Counsel.
In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs claimed that PA 300 was an instance of the government taking private property for public use since it required school employees to pay more for their pension and healthcare costs.
Under PA 300, all actively employed MPSERS members had to make elections about their pension and retiree benefits. Basic Plan members are expected to contribute 4 percent to their pensions or opt out. Employees hired between Jan. 1990 and July 2010, and former Basic members who transferred in the Member Investment Plan (MIP), are expected to contribute 7 percent or opt out.
Members choosing to opt out can maintain their contribution rates by freezing their existing benefits at the 1.5 percent multiplier and take a 1.25 percent multiplier from then on. Or they can freeze their existing pension benefits and move into a defined contribution plan with a 4 percent employer contribution for the future.
Members who opted in also had to contribute 3 percent to receive the retiree healthcare benefit. Members opting out would not receive the benefit.
In response to the lawsuit, the Supreme Court in a 6-0 ruling, decided that since PA 300 has a voluntary provision that allows employees to opt out, it does not represent a government takeover of private property. Their decision upholds earlier rulings by the Michigan Court of Appeals and the Ingham County Circuit Court.
House passes bill to let retirees return to teach without penalty, now moves to Senate
The House passed HB 4059 which eliminates a sunset that kept retirees from returning to work without losing their pension and health benefits. Rep. Holly Hughes' bill (R-Montague) will allow school districts to hire retired teachers in areas designated as "critical shortage," as substitutes, or as instructional coaches.
With this bill, a retiree must be retired for at least 12 months before returning to work in a critical shortage area; the retiree can be employed for no more than three years. Meanwhile, the school district must continue to pay for 100 percent of the unfunded liability for the pension and retiree health care.
Retirees who have been retired for at least a month can return to substitute teach can earn no more than one-third of their final average compensation in a calendar year.
In addition to benefiting retirees, the bill will help out school districts that need qualified teachers in certain subject areas. MEA is supportive of this legislation. The bill now moves to the Senate
Legislature OKs shifting money from School Aid to pay down budget deficit
The Michigan House and Senate passed two bills that balance the 2014-15 budget through fund shifts and cuts to state agencies. HB 4110 covers K-12, community colleges and higher education and calls for shifting money from the School Aid Fund to the General Fund. HB 4112 cuts money from state agencies and departments. Both bills are now on their way to the Governor for his signature.
HB 4110 replaces $250.3 million in the General Fund with School Aid revenue. A shift of $167.1 million from the School Aid Fund is allocated for community colleges.