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Freida Michilizzi and her fellow UAW Local 6000 members have had to work days with no pay, seen their work load increase, watched as services were cut, and witnessed the State of Michigan begin to outsource jobs in foster care, adult independent living, and corrections systems.
Michilizzi, an office assistant, knows how much state employees have helped as Michigan moved from one crisis to another over the last several years. Now, as Local 6000 members enter into bargaining for a new contract, they believe it’s time for the state to treat them fairly.
“We’ve given up a lot in concessions to the state,” Michilizzi said. “Health care is a huge concern. We pay more out of our pocket because the state says they can’t afford it but they give state officials raises. We have had to work several days without pay.”
UAW President Dennis Williams joined Local 6000 President Ed Mitchell and the bargaining team in Lansing on July 24 to kick off 2015 contract talks. Privatization and outsourcing, job security, and protecting health care are among the top priorities for members going into this round of bargaining.
“When we shake hands today, we must recognize the sacrifices these state workers have made in recent years, and bargain a contract that will provide stable public services for UAW members, taxpayers, and those who truly rely on all of us,” Williams said. “The decisions we make will impact families and communities across Michigan and set the tone for our state’s middle-class economy for years to come. These stakes are high.”
Williams emphasized the need to find a way to provide health care at affordable rates to protect the earning power of state workers. He called upon the state to work in tandem with the union on the issue.
“We have done it in auto, we have done it in agricultural implement, we have done it in aerospace, we have done it in all of our industries,” he added.
The UAW has represented State of Michigan workers since 1985, with Local 6000 being the union’s largest local. Currently, it represents about 17,000 members in 1,100 work sites throughout the state and includes UAW members in every department in state government. Members include nurses, teachers, doctors, probation officers, social workers, secretaries, teachers, parole and probation officers, as well as administrative support and human services personnel. The current contract expires Dec. 31.
UAW and State of Michigan officials last negotiated contracts in 2013. In 2011, UAW and other unions entered a coordinated bargaining process with the state employer during contract talks, but no decision has been made on whether it will do so in the 2015 talks.
“Our goal is for Michigan to prosper and for UAW members to share in the value of the hard work it takes to keep our state running efficiently and with the creative innovation that UAW members give taxpayers day in and day out,” said Mitchell, Local 6000 president. “We view ourselves as good stewards of the taxpayer money and we work hard to make sure that the work we do delivers quality services to the people of Michigan.”
It’s clear Local 6000 members have gone above and beyond their duty to uphold their end of the bargain. They feel it’s time for the state to do likewise.
“We’ve put our household budgets on hold to help the state balance their budget,” said Michilizzi, the office assistant. “The state can’t keep coming to us to balance its books because it passed bad legislation.”
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