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Proposal 2: Why it is so important

By Art Blackwell

Growing up in Michigan was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, especially for a student of politics and government. The reason: Being born in the 1950s was one of the most critical and transformational periods in America. The Great Migration north, categorized by the first period (1910-30) and the second period (1940-70), saw millions of southern Blacks move north and west. Detroit saw some of the largest influx of African Americans due to the demands of World War II for equipment and weapons. Detroit became known as the Arsenal of Democracy. In addition to the African Americans who moved to the urban center, Polish, Armenian, Jewish, Italian, Irish and many other ethnic groups also came to Detroit. The city became one of the most racially and ethnically diverse regions in America; it was also one of the most segregated.

America and unions are like mud and straw because it’s almost impossible to make bricks without both ingredients. Even though there has been a history of racial and gender bias in American unions, many labor unions, especially in Michigan, have done more to promote racial equality than even our own government. Organized labor has helped make America the greatest country. While not perfect, America is way ahead of every other country in the world.

In the U.S. Constitution, the First Amendment says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or of the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress or grievance.”

What a beautiful thought that the framers of the Constitution had to believe that the people should be able to petition their government for a redress of grievances. Sounds to me like collective bargaining, where workers have a right to petition their employer for a redress of their salaries, wages, retirement and working conditions.

Michigan and labor go together like life and liberty, tears and pain, struggle and progress. People, however, are afraid that with so many freedoms and liberties being curtailed with the shrinking of the American middle class, organized labor may be one of the last protections they have against a runaway financial system, where the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans have seen their net worth go from $8 trillion to $40 trillion in less than 12 years.

Proposal 2 is a proposal to amend the State Constitution regarding collective bargaining. Should this proposal be approved, it would:

  • Grant public and private employees the constitutional right to organize and bargain collectively through labor unions.
  • Invalidate existing or future state or local laws that limit the ability to join unions and bargain collectively, and to negotiate and enforce collective bargaining agreements, including employees’ financial support of their labor unions. Laws may be enacted to prohibit public employees from striking.
  • Override state laws that regulate hours and conditions of employment to the extent that those laws conflict with collective bargaining agreements.
  • Define “employer” as a person or entity employing one or more employees.

On Nov. 6 please vote “yes” on Proposal 2, which respects the history of our struggle and promotes the promise of our future. God bless you and the great state of Michigan.

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