The UAW Local 600 Food Project is a revolutionary way to collect food: It's a donor drive, not a food drive.

Instead of asking for one-time contributions of food, our volunteers (Neighborhood Coordinators) enlist their neighbors to become long-term Food Donors.

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Young Writers (ages 14-21) write social justice poems to uplift Detroit. Meet the dynamic Social Justice Performance Troupe that is re-shaping our city! Click Here for their website.

Growing Graduate Employee Movement Pursues Collective Bargaining Rights at Private Universities

NEW YORK, NY — Unions seeking representation for more than 3,000 research and teaching assistants (RAs and TAs) filed certification petitions with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) today. Graduate Workers of Columbia (GWC-UAW), the union for 2,800 Columbia University RAs and TAs, and Student Employees of New School (SENS-UAW), the union for over 350 RAs and TAs at the New School, filed petitions at the Manhattan NLRB office to become part of the UAW.

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News Herald: What to do about the state surplus? by Craig Farrand

FARRAND: What to do about the state surplus? Politicans have ideas

Monday, January 20, 2014

By Craig Farrand

“He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lampposts: for support, rather than illumination.”

— Andrew Lang

Scottish poet

Hello Downriver,

Now it gets interesting.

What to do with a nearly $1 billion (with a “b”) budget surplus this coming fiscal year?

You could just feel the juices flowing in Lansing on Thursday night; nearly every lawmaker was salivating at the chance to issue checks to Michigan voters in time for this fall’s elections.

It was Gov. Snyder’s State of the State address and he eventually got to the spot everyone was waiting for: what to do with the money.

“It’s not about politics,” the governor said, “it’s about being a family.

“I believe, though,” he continued, “when I’ve looked at that list (of options), there’s going to be an opportunity for some tax relief.”

At that point, Lansing rumbled with the applause and foot stomping of kids just given another snow day.

It was like a fix to an addict; the lubricant of politics — money — was going to be available to bribe us.

To convince us that all is well with the world; that our saviors will make us financially whole.

Oh, and don’t forget to vote for these wonderful people who just gave you your money back.

Of course, this typically political move conveniently ignores the fact that these same lawmakers saw no problem taking the money in the first place.

Consider the following:

•The GOP-controlled Legislature felt it was important to tax retirement income on those born after 1946 — the baby boomers.

•These same lawmakers also felt it important to take away the Homestead Property Tax Credit from more than 400,000 Michigan families.

•They cut the Earned Income Tax Credit from 20 percent of the federal EITC to a mere 6 percent — a tremendous hit to working families.

•They eliminated the $600-per-child deduction — another hit.

•They eliminated the deduction for charitable donations.

Then they gave a $2 billion (there’s that “b” word again) tax break to Michigan businesses.

The shorthand?

They took money from breathing human beings and gave it to corporate creatures that are more and more being defined as “people,” too.

Using his State of the State as a campaign kickoff event, Snyder spent most of his time talking about all the great things going on, reciting one mind-numbing statistic after another.

In fact, it wasn’t until about 45 minutes into his stump speech that he even began talking about anything remotely important to the future of Michigan.

And while there was some applauding throughout the speech, his single comment about the surplus brought down the house.

Never mind that state Budget Director John Nixon has said that about $650 million of the surplus shouldn’t be used for any kind of permanent tax cut; it’s really only a one-time windfall.

However, that still leaves more than $300 million in political slush funds to bribe us come November.

For keep in mind that the budget we’re talking about begins Oct. 1 of this year — one month before Election Day.

So the saliva was dripping on the floor of the House, where everyone had gathered; I think I even saw one person slip.

I really liked the corn pone tone Snyder inserted several times in his stump speech; those references to “hard-working folk” were touching.

And out of touch: If he really cared about “hard-working folk,” then why did he take our money to begin with?

Why was it so important to slash education and impose tax burdens on “hard-working folk,” while giving away the farm (I can be corny, too) to big business.

I’ve asked the question before, and I’ll ask it again, Gov. Snyder: Where are the jobs?

You said 220,000 private-sector jobs have been created — but our unemployment rate of 8.8 percent is the third-highest in the nation.

Not good enough — certainly not after your $2 billion gift to Corporate America; the $2 billion you took from us “hard-working folk.”

Being a CPA, the governor knows how to work the numbers, and he was adept in explaining how his previous $470-per-pupil cuts to education had been more than offset by the state’s investment in Michigan’s pension fund for school employees.

According to Snyder, that investment is equivalent to a $660-per-student increase in funding.

His reasoning is that by the state investing in the pension fund, it releases local funds for use in classrooms.

Sounds good.

Except his approach does nothing to address the overarching failure of our current funding mechanism — the unintended consequences of Proposal A.

In the end, there are two nagging questions still to be answered — one short-term, one more structural.

First, how should this $1 billion surplus be used?

Certainly not as a tax refund: They took our money to make this a better state.

Well, do that!

Improve our roads, our schools; help families and seniors.

Those are sound investments for the $1 billion, don’t you think?

My second question depends on whether greedy lawmakers get their chance to refund the money to us: Why did you take it from us if you’re just going to turn around and give it back?

If you think so much about the “hard-working folk” in this state, why didn’t you leave the money in our wallets to begin with?

Next up for the governor and Legislature is to craft a 2014-15 budget that incorporates the $1 billion surplus.

My advice: Watch and listen.

In 100 words or less: Next month, the world will turn its eye to Sochi, Russia, and the 2014 Winter Olympics — and I’ve been thinking …

No, not about security concerns (and they definitely exist), but about why we hold the Olympics in a single place?

Since the Olympics are supposed to be the personification of global unity through sports — and given our worldwide communications network — why not have them held in multiple locations simultaneously?

We could host ski jumping in Marquette; LA could host beach volleyball; Boston could host rowing; France, cycling; Greece, wrestling; Japan, gymnastics; Switzerland, alpine skiing.

Now that would be great TV.

Craig Farrand is a former managing editor of The News-Herald Newspapers. He can be reached at

FARRAND: What we have to look forward to in 2014 isn’t very encouraging

By Craig Farrand

“Politics is supposed to be the second oldest profession. I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first.”

— Ronald Reagan

40th U.S. President

Hello Downriver,

Here’s something to ponder when thinking of the role of our state lawmakers in our lives.

Talking about possible legislative action this year, Kelly Rossman, a PR/marketing exec in Lansing, was quoted as saying: “I expect with the exception of tax relief, everything else will take place in lame duck.”

“With the exception of tax relief,” she said.

Well, that’s a relief: I certainly hoped our lawmakers would do what’s expected in an election year and give us some of our money back.

I mean, what better way to curry votes than with payoffs?

A bribe of sorts, if you will.

Of course, this is an unsurprising, less-than-courageous approach to dealing with what has now grown into a projected $1.3 billion budget surplus over the next three years.

A surprising, courageous approach would be to use the money to fix our state — while changing the future tax code to help the struggling middle class that makes up the bulk of our population.

For example, fix our roads and our schools.

That would be money put to good use.

But that kind of thinking doesn’t get votes come November; payoffs in the form of tax relief does.

Oh, and although that surplus is universally expected, leave it to the speaker of the House’s spokesman to qualify that information: “… if it actually exists,” Ari Adler said.

But Adler then went on to project his boss’ own intentions for 2014: “The speaker wants to look at relief for taxpayers.”

Of course he does — the good of the state be damned; for if the speaker and his GOP brethren really cared about Michigan taxpayers, they would repeal the tax on retirements, increase the minimum wage and tie it to inflation and do the other things that would make life bearable for those who make our state work.

Oh, wait, my bad: Adler didn’t really say his boss, Jase Bolger, was looking for tax relief for individuals.

Silly me: He meant more relief for corporate taxpayers that already have reaped the benefits of the best Legislature money can buy.

And with Gov. Snyder’s trust issues — he was opposed to right-to-work before he was for it; he was for transparency in government before he was against it — it’s hard to figure he’ll do the right thing.

And the right thing is to invest in our state when we can — and we can now.

We need to invest in our schools, making them work for every child; and then we need to make college affordable for every student who wants to attend.

And make career alternatives achievable for those seeking another path.

And we need to fix our deplorable roads by first reducing the weight limits allowed and then using the latest technologies to build roads deserving of a 21st century title.

That goes especially for the bridges that are now close to crumbling under our tires.

Then the Legislature needs to address the issues I mentioned earlier: an increased wage floor, help for retirees who helped build this state and assistance for those who need it.

Yes, there are other needs.

A state like ours, based in manufacturing and trying to catch up to the rest of the world, has a lot of needs.

But $1.3 billion can go a ways in addressing those needs.

Now, I know there will be those of you who will argue it’s your money and you deserve a refund.

But that’s precisely the kind of short-term thinking that got our state in this fix to begin with; the kind of quarterly report mentality that put our Big Three behind Asian long-term planning.

I thought we’d moved past that by now.

Besides, if you think this is your personal money, then you’re not much better than politicians who want to use tax relief as a way to get your vote this fall.

We’re better than they are — so let’s act like it, and demand better from them in turn.

In 100 words or less: What does it take to soften the heart of the hardest soul?

Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” remains the nonpareil tale of the hardest heart being changed by others.

So I’m still trying to understand how GOP lawmakers considering abortion insurance coverage were unmoved by state Sen. Gretchen Whitmer’s sharing of information that she had been raped 20 years ago.

Yes, many are morally opposed to abortion, but that wasn’t the argument; it was about forcing women to get coverage in advance for something they hope they’ll never have to face.

“(This) even being discussed … is repulsive,” Whitmer said.

And heartless.

Craig Farrand is a former managing editor of The News-Herald Newspapers. He can be reached at

UAW Local 600 members help Protest at Bank of America 8-19-13

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