Midwest Memo: Illinois’ ‘Basket Case,’ Right To Work Challenge And A Shortage Of Asparagus Workers

Pension problems Bloomberg News reports that Illinois’ pension system is a “basket case.” The state’s teacher pension system is only 47 percent funded, the lowest number of any similar system in the country.

Right to sue The Associated Press looks into a court challenge against Indiana’s Right to Work law, passed earlier this year. Among other things, the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 argue that the law deprives them of free speech rights, since it forces them to represent members who do not pay dues, and that money would be used to support their political speech.

Raising casinos, raising taxes A ballot proposal in Michigan to allow eight more casinos in the state would also raise taxes on Detroit’s three existing casinos, according to Mlive.

Want to pick asparagus? Asparagus season has come early in Michigan, and farmers are desperate to find workers to pick this year’s crop. Partner station Michigan Radio reports there will be a job fair on Thursday to try to fill 220 jobs.

Exaggerated Right To Work Claim Gives Fuel To The Law’s Opponents In Indiana – And Elswhere

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels

Welp, looks like Mitch Daniels stepped in it.

The Indiana governor held a press conference on Monday to reflect on accomplishments made in the latest legislative session. He talked about getting approval for full-day kindergarten, a smoking ban and a new agreement to have Amazon collect Indiana sales tax. He also talked about Right to Work, the most controversial, and significant, change in Indiana law in the past year.

Daniels said, after passing Right to Work, three companies have decided to expand their business in Indiana. Only one company, the MBC Group, has been identified publicly. Daniels said even more companies are in negotiations with the state, thanks to Right to Work.

“I probably underestimated how important an addition to our already excellent business climate this was going to be,” Daniels said during the press conference.

There’s just one thing: the one company Daniels named that expanded because of Right to Work didn’t actually expand because of Right to Work.

Continue reading “Exaggerated Right To Work Claim Gives Fuel To The Law’s Opponents In Indiana – And Elswhere”

Midwest Memo: Ohio Loses Out, Big Money For The Recall And Indiana Makes A Whoopsie

Wah Wah Shell has chosen Pittsburg for a new $2 billion plant to process natural gas. The Wall Street Journal says the plant is expected to create thousands of jobs. Ohio leaders were hoping the plant would be built in their state.

Whoopsie Two weeks ago, a state press release in Indiana promoted the MBC Group as an example how the state’s new Right to Work law is creating jobs. One problem: the president of the MBC Group says Right to Work played no role in his company’s decision to expand.

Big money The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports on the “staggering” amount of money being spent on the Scott Walker recall campaign. The amount is more than double the amount previously spent on any statewide campaign in Wisconsin.

Calling all angels The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that angel investing in Wisconsin reached over $61 million last year.

Immigrant entrepreneurs Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel announced a series of workshops to help immigrants launch small businesses.

Primed for the primary Partner station WBEZ reports that Newt Gingrich was in Illinois yesterday. Other candidates will be in the state today, as the Illinois primary race gets going.

Damage done It’s only property A tornado ripped through the small Southeast Michigan village of Dexter yesterday. No one was hurt.

In Midwest, Right To Work Could Go On The Ballot

Until now, Right to Work laws have been the subject of legislative debate. But in Minnesota and Ohio, the issue faces the prospect of being put before voters this fall.

Map Courtesy EasterdayConstruction.com

Right to Work laws prohibit unions from collecting dues in a workplace, even when they represent its workers. Earlier this winter, Indiana became the first state in the Great Lakes to adopt a Right to Work, and the 23rd in the nation to do so.

Now, unions and other Right to Work opponents are vowing to go directly tio voters to plead their cause. Here’s a look at their strategy:  Continue reading “In Midwest, Right To Work Could Go On The Ballot”

Michigan Lawmakers Take Aim At Teachers’ Union Dues

Michigan’s Republican governor, Rick Snyder, says a Right to Work law is not a priority for his administration, and a number of Midwest governors agree. But the Michigan legislature has taken aim at a tenet of collective bargaining for the state’s teachers. 

On Wednesday, the Republican controlled legislature sent Snyder a bill that that prohibits public schools from automatically collecting dues from teachers and other school employees’ paychecks. The step affects teachers and employees from kindergarten through high school.

Supporters say the legislation will free up schools from doing the bookkeeping for unions, and require union members to write separate checks, or arrange for the money to be withdrawn from their accounts.

The ability to pay union dues via deduction has long been a method used by organized labor to encourage people to sign up. Labor leaders often have worried that if it’s difficult to pay dues, many people won’t bother.

“It could not have been a worse day,” David Hecker, the president of the Michigan branch of the American Federation of Teachers, said in a email to his members. (Read and listen to Changing Gears’ coverage of the issues facing teachers.) Continue reading “Michigan Lawmakers Take Aim At Teachers’ Union Dues”

Midwest Memo: UAW Steps In On Right To Work, Recall News And Chicago’s Birthday

A new angle The head of the UAW says the union will try to get voters to approve an amendment to the Michigan constitution to ban Right to Work legislation. Right to Work bans employers from agreeing to mandatory union membership for their workers.

Taking them to task A new task force is declaring war on corruption in Detroit, according to the Detroit Free Press.  An FBI official says corruption in the city is “generational, systematic, part of the culture.”

Total recall Wisconsin election officials say recall votes will have to wait until at least June.

Some gain, still pain Illinois added jobs again last month, proof that the state is recovering – but at a “painfully slow rate,” according to the Chicago Tribune.

Hold the confetti CNNMoney takes a look at manufacturing in Ohio, and says the “good times are back (sort of).”

Movies move on Interest in Michigan as a movie-making destination continues to drop. The state dramatically cut back its film incentives last year.

Happy Birthday Chicago turns 175 years old on Sunday!

Midwest Memo: High Tech High Schools, Jet Jobs And Right To Work In Court

New high (tech) schools Five giants of the tech world are teaming up to open six new high schools in Chicago. Students at the high schools will stay for six years, and leave with an associates degree in a high tech field.

Jet jobs Michigan Governor Rick Snyder says the state could lose 600 jobs if the Air Force moves its A-10 fighter planes away from the Selfridge Air National Guard base.

Signature move Opponents of Michigan’s emergency manager law say they have enough signatures to put the issue on the ballot, and let voters decide whether the law should stand. Partner station Michigan Radio reports the signatures will be turned in today for certification.

Mine on the mind Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is hitting the road to help promote a controversial mining bill. The bill would open up a new mine in northern Wisconsin. The bill passed the state Assembly, but it now appears to be headed for a close vote in the Senate.

Right to Work in court Opponents of Indiana’s new Right to Work law will get their day in court. Attempts to overturn Right to Work have failed in other states. But activists say Indiana’s law was passed in a hastily, and it contains provisions not found in other Right to Work laws. Both sides will make their case at a preliminary hearing on Monday.

Drilling down into the numbers A new study says shale gas and oil will add $5 billion to Ohio’s economy over the next two years. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports the study was commissioned by the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, on behalf of the Ohio Shale coalition. The study predicts the boom in shale drilling will happen about 10 times faster than previous studies predicted.

Are Midwest Governors Backing Down On Right to Work?

Last month, Changing Gears’ Niala Boodhoo took a look at Wisconsin, a year after Republican Gov. Scott Walker won legislation that strips most public employees of their bargaining rights.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker

Now, The Atlantic Monthly is weighing in with its own take on Walker, and it had a tidbit that caught our eye. Staff writer Molly Ball asked Walker if he supported a Right to Work law, like the one that recently passed the Indiana legislature.

Walker replied, “Not oppose it, it’s just not something we’re pursuing right now.” He went on, “It’s not something I’m pursuing right now, nor have any plan of pursuing.”

That sounds almost word for word what Michigan’s Republican governor, Rick Snyder, says about a Right to Work law, which would prevent unions from collecting mandatory dues when employees decline to join. Continue reading “Are Midwest Governors Backing Down On Right to Work?”

Midwest Memo: Fighting Right To Work, The New Value Of The “Old Economy”

Right to Fight Reuters reports that Indiana union members are expected to be in court today to try to overturn the state’s new Right to Work law.

$50 million That’s what the federal government expects to spend this year fighting invasive Asian Carp.

Ohio power State regulators in Ohio have overturned electricity price increases they approved in December. But, as partner station WCPN Ideastream reports, the fight isn’t over. Meanwhile, a trash to energy plan in Cleveland is showing signs of life, despite strong opposition.

Down, down, down The number of union jobs in Ohio continues to decline. The Dayton Daily News says union numbers in the state have been falling for at least the last 10 straight years.

Lockout over? A three-month lockout at Cooper Tire could be coming to an end, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Workers peace out CNNMoney takes a look at “Michigan’s Incredible Shrinking Workforce.”

Manufacturing, yo A new report says in order to build the future economy, Michigan should look to the “old economy.”

Occupy movement About 60 employees of a Chicago window-making company occupied their plant for 11 hours yesterday. They were trying to stop the plant’s closing. Partner station WBEZ reports the workers claimed victory after owners agreed to keep the plant open an extra 90 days. The workers will now try to find a buyer, or raise money to buy the plant themselves.

Michigan’s Primary Race Tightens As Romney Talks Right To Work

A new poll by NBC News shows Mitt Romney taking a narrow lead over Rick Santorum in the race to win Michigan’s Republican primary next Tuesday.

The NBC poll, out Wednesday, showed 37 percent of likely voters support the former Massachusetts governor, while 35 percent support the former Pennsylvania senator. To statisticians, that’s within the margin of error, meaning a statistical tie.

“Michigan is neck and neck,” said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, which conducted the NBC survey.

That’s a big change from last week, when Santorum led Romney in two Michigan polls. Continue reading “Michigan’s Primary Race Tightens As Romney Talks Right To Work”