- Associated Press - Monday, September 16, 2019

The Detroit News. September 12, 2019

UAW, don’t walk out

Don’t do it.

That’s our advice to the United Auto Workers as it weighs whether to take its members out on strike should negotiations with the Big Three automakers fail to produce a contract by the 11:59 p.m. Saturday deadline.

This would be the worst possible moment for a damaging work stoppage.

Both the automakers and the union are going through a period of instability, as well as tremendous uncertainty about the future.

UAW officials must know that it’s a lot easier to take workers out on strike than it is to bring them back to their jobs.

That could be particularly true this year, with so many top union leaders caught up in a federal investigation into bribery and kickbacks that has already led to nine convictions.

Since part of the investigation involves bribes paid to influence past contract talks, members are right to worry about whether Jones and his team are bargaining in their best interest. They may not trust any proposal Jones brings them, and thus refuse to ratify it as a form of protest. That could easily turn what should have been a short strike into a much longer one.

The UAW has taken note of the decade-long run of high profits posted by General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and FCA-Chrysler, and understandably wants to claw back some of the concessions it has made over the years to help keep the automakers afloat.

The union wants base wage increases, more job security and stricter limits on temporary workers.

But there are signs that the boom years may be coming to a close. Sales have weakened somewhat recently.

But the bigger worry is uncertainty over trade policy.

The tariffs already imposed by the Trump administration are cutting into profit margins, and the ones the president is threatening could drive costs much higher.

Despite past contract give-backs, the domestic manufacturers are still at a competitive disadvantage with the foreign automakers who operate in the United States. For GM, the labor cost gap is $13 an hour; for Ford it’s $11 and FCA is at $5.

A contract that widens the advantage of the foreign companies risks cutting into market share of the Big Three.

GM is the strike target. As always, the hype for a walkout is running high. Some experts predict that instead of a targeted strike at one key facility, this could be a company-wide action, shutting down everything.

Jones may see a strike as just the thing he needs to rally membership to his support and turn the narrative of the scandal away from any alleged misdeeds by union leadership and toward the companies and federal government.

But despite the warning signs, conditions are still relatively good for auto companies and autoworkers. Profits are high, and so are profit sharing checks.

Putting that record stretch of prosperity at risk with a strike would be self-destructive, and frankly, foolish.


The Mining Journal (Marquette). September 10, 2019

Whitmer going after vaping industry in Michigan

With the number of serious health cases approaching 500 nationwide related to vaping, we believe Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is on the right track in banning flavored electronic cigarettes, accusing companies of using candy flavors and deceptive advertising to “hook children on nicotine.”

Whitmer took the unprecedented action last week, making the state of Michigan the first in the union to take the controversial step. Although retailers will have 30 days to comply with the rules once they’re filed in coming weeks, look for the rules to almost certainly be challenged in court, the Associated Press reported.

“Right now, companies selling vaping products are using candy flavors to hook children on nicotine and misleading claims to promote the belief that these products are safe. That ends today,” Whitmer said in a written statement distributed to media, noting that Michigan’s chief medical executive determined that youth vaping constitutes a public health emergency, said AP.

Whitmer’s announcement drew praise from public health advocates, school groups and Democratic lawmakers, but criticism from organizations that advocate for vaping and some Republicans in the GOP-led Legislature, said AP.

So, like everything else in Lansing, this issue, too, will be politicized, and while it is, people - including a large number of young people - will continue to become ill.

Although it’s going to land the state in court for who knows how long, the governor is right on this one. We trust the judiciary will see it that way, too.


Lansing State Journal. September 12, 2019

Mark Dantonio on the cusp of forever being able to say “I told you so’

Upon first reading the news story Wednesday that eight of 93 school buses owned by school districts in Northeast Michigan were red-tagged, or designated as unsafe, it set off alarms for us.

And it should. Michigan State Police late last school year inspected the buses of area school districts as to their safety.

But this is not a case of district superintendents turning a blind eye to the problem. Rather, it’s a sign of district officials trying to stretch every mile they can out of buses that they know are nearing the end of their service life.

As you dig deeper in the story, for instance, you read that, in Posen, where two buses were red-tagged, neither bus is used for transporting students anymore. One of the buses is used for parts for repairs to other buses, while the other has a dead engine and just sits on the school property.

Alcona’s two red tags were for rot and rust, not mechanical issues.

It should be noted that both Atlanta and Rogers City school districts had zero buses designated for red tagging. Atlanta has five buses in its fleet, while Rogers City has eight.

In Alcona, where two buses were red-tagged, Superintendent Dan O’Conner said the inspections were a result of district officials trying to get every mile they can out of their fleet.

“Our school buses are aging .,” he told reporter Julie Goldberg. “We’ve been working on replacing them.”

The same is true for the other districts as well.

The safety of our students has to remain paramount for everyone.

And we are confident that, because of reports like this that help districts identify potential problems, those concerns are being addressed.


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