On Friday, Michigan Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville (R) announced that he would soon be introducing new legislation he is calling the “Freedom To Teach” bill. The legislation would essentially serve as a right-to-work law for teachers, which would allow teachers in unionized workplaces to avoid paying dues for the benefits they are being provided.
On his website, Richardville claims to be concerned for the welfare of teachers, saying that he wants to keep more money in their pockets to “stimulate” the economy:
I want to keep more money in the pockets of teachers, and thereby keep more money in a family’s savings account or money that can be spent to stimulate our economy. The Minority Leader would like to continue to see hundreds of dollars removed from teachers pay to support a $200,000-a-year plus salary for union bosses who haven’t seen the inside of a class room in years. Or maybe the money coming out of the teacher’s pay goes to foot one of their many high-paid lobbyists dinner and entertaining bills. The Minority Leader is just plain wrong. That money belongs to the teacher that earned it. It is up to them to contribute based on personal choice, not because the school district extracts it from paychecks and deposits it in the hands of the union bosses.
Yet, as Richardville notes, Michigan’s teachers have faced “salary reductions, concessions, paying more in health care costs, and in some cases, lay-offs” over the past year. But what he doesn’t say is that much of this pain teachers in the state have faced come from none other than himself, his conservative colleagues in the legislature, Gov. Rick Snyder (R). Conservative efforts to gut union rights and slash education budgets have forced all of these cutbacks in teacher wages and benefits:
- Richardville’s Policies Have Teachers Paying Dramatically More For Health Care: Most teachers and administrators will be paying an average of 10 percent more for their health care costs this year thanks to cutbacks and rollbacks of union rights that Richardville supported.
- Richardville’s Policies Have Cut Teacher Salaries: Richardville and his conservative colleagues cut the state’s education aid by hundreds of millions of dollars, sending budgetary shock waves across the state’s school districts. A number of districts enacted pay freezes to withstand the barrage of cuts, and others have responded by cutting teacher salaries, with one two-educator home in West Michigan expecting to take home $30,000 less over the course of the year thanks to a combination of salary and benefits cuts. Meanwhile, thousands of teachers were simply laid off, with one-third of school districts in Genesee County, for example, experiencing layoffs.
- Richardville’s Policies Gutted Teacher Collective Bargaining Rights: Alongside his GOP allies, Richardville backed anti-union laws that decimated collective bargaining laws, restricting the rights of teachers to negotiate for fair conditions.
While Richardville may be pretending that the “Free To Teach” bill is about helping teachers, his record and that of his conservative colleagues shows that they have done nothing but harm teachers’ wages, benefits, and rights over the past year. Teachers should not fall for his rhetoric and support his attack on union rights.