WCDP News: Power, Accountability, and Labor

13 mins read

MDP and Michigan Jewish Democratic Caucus decry rising anti-Semitism

MDP Chair Lavora Barnes and the Michigan Jewish Democratic Caucus issued a joint press release in response to rising rates of antisemitic hatred. Barnes stated, “We stand together in condemning antisemitism, just as we condemn other types of racism, homophobia and bigotry of any kind. The MDP is committed to ensuring that Jews are included in all of our efforts to foster diversity and inclusivity in our organization and Michigan.” Marla Linderman Richelew, interim chair of the Michigan Jewish Democratic Caucus, is a member of the WCDP County Committee. Reciting a litany of attacks against Jewish people, including children, Richelew stated “We thank the Michigan Democratic Party for standing by our side in this important time and call on our public officials and community leaders throughout Michigan to condemn this rampant hate with words and action.” Read the full article about this important statement in Michigan Advance.

Hold DTE Accountable 

At its meeting on March 1, the County Board of Commissioners unanimously passed a resolution directing County Administrator Gregory Dill to “develop a series of options” for the Board’s consideration in response to the widespread power outages during the ice storm of February 22. The resolution states that ~38% of DTE customers were without power, many for several days; that DTE’s reported 2022 profit was $1.1 billion; that DTE charges some of the highest residential rates in the states for services ranked at the bottom nationally; and that DTE spends millions of ratepayer dollars annually for lobbying, advertising, and CEO salaries instead of improving the grid. DTE’s failures disrupted schools, workplaces, stores, and traffic, and cost local governments and individuals hundreds of thousands of dollars. The Board of Commissioners called for options including legislative advocacy, exploration of alternative energy sources, and intervention in DTE’s requests for rate hikes. 

Art Reyes III, Executive Director of We the People MI had strong words for DTE as well (2/27, via Twitter). “… DTE President Trevor Lauer said ‘An ice storm should not mark how people view our performance.’ but We the People MI begs to differ. It has now become normal in Michigan every time there’s a storm, for hundreds of thousands of people to lose power, sometimes for days on end. It’s becoming clearer and clearer that an investor-owned utility monopoly model is not sustainable for the state of Michigan, it’s not sustainable for providing the type of service that we need, and it is constantly putting us in a position where shareholders are prioritized over everybody else.”

Learn how to participate in Board of Commissioners meetings.
This Bridge Magazine article lays out some of the obstacles to legislative reform.

March Meeting & Program

Legislative Updates

We were joined by elected representatives for conversation and Q&A about legislative work in Lansing and in the County Board of Commissioners. Commissioner Justin Hodges informed us that the Advisory Council on Reparations is now accepting applications from those who wish to serve on the council. Rep. Carrie Rheingans spoke on proposed legislation for Michigan to join the National Popular Vote Initiative.  You can send your Michigan state legislator an email asking them to support the National Popular Vote Initiative by clicking here

The Housing and Homelessness Crisis in Washtenaw County

There has been a significant spike in people experiencing homelessness in Washtenaw County this winter, especially families who cannot find housing. Local housing and homelessness service providers and others involved with the crisis informed us about the impact of the lack of housing on the most vulnerable in our community, and its negative effects for education, business, health care systems, and so many other aspects of life across the county.

Post-Meeting Funding Update: 

On March 6th, the Ann Arbor City Council passed a resolution proposing the re-allocation of $350,183 of unspent funds from the New Human Services Partnership (NHSP) High Impact Grant Program (Year 1) to address the current family homelessness crisis by funding eviction prevention via the Ann Arbor Housing Commission. The County reports that 76% of households facing eviction are Black female-led households. NHSP High Impact grant funding is focused on changing the conditions for those experiencing systemic oppressions of racism, trauma, or poverty in Washtenaw County. The NHSP is funded by Washtenaw County general funds, City of Ann Arbor general funds, City of Ann Arbor American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, Washtenaw Urban County CDBG and CDBG-CV funds. The County is concurrently considering re-allocating unspent funds ($487,273) for the same purpose. If approved by both bodies, $832,456.26 would go towards eviction and prevention immediately.  

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3rd Annual Louis Nagel Concert
April 23, 2023

Sunday, April 23, 2023 at 4pm

Join fellow Democrats for a benefit performance for the Washtenaw County Democratic Party by highly acclaimed concert pianist Louis Nagel featuring music by Beethoven. Includes a special introduction by Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin.

Attend in person at the First Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Ann Arbor, or virtually by Zoom. For those who attend in person, light refreshments will follow the performance. Tickets are on sale now.

A Message from the Huron Valley Area Labor Federation

People don’t usually hear about Union negotiations over collective bargaining agreements. Leadership teams from the employer and the Local get together and argue over pay raises, benefits, scopes of work, and more. In the private sector, the ones who care are usually only those directly involved in the final agreement.

This should not be the case when it comes to the unionized public sector. The public should not only be knowledgeable about negotiations but should take a direct interest in seeing that they are done fairly, and holistically. Elected officials are directly responsible for their administrations, ensuring that public services are being adequately funded, and infrastructure is maintained. Unfortunately, some people only think about the physical infrastructure, the buildings, vehicles, and tools. They forget the vitally important human infrastructure that supports public services as well. Because of this, the public should take keen interest.

Residents of the cities and counties where these services are delivered should be very interested in knowing how the workers that are delivering those services are being treated. Parents should be aware if the teachers that work with their children almost every day have enough money to live in the community where they work, or in some cases if they can even put food on the table. Residents who rely on Nurses and other medical staff at the University of Michigan should know that those workers are able to take a break and eat lunch during a twelve-hour shift. Families who are impacted by mental health needs have a vested interest in having County Employees with Community Mental Health that are well trained, adequately staffed, and can operate in a safe work environment.

Unfortunately, these things are not always true, and voters must hold elected officials accountable for making sure that the workers who deliver these critical services are being treated with dignity and are not being asked to serve the public while struggling to make ends meet at home. Many Public Sector workers in Washtenaw County have bargaining campaigns coming up, several have not bargained a new contract in nearly ten years. This process usually reoccurs every two to four years, but many of those negotiations have not taken place since the mid 2010’s. Multiple rounds of negotiations, where incremental increases in compensation and other workplace necessities should have happened, have not. We also just went through one of the largest inflation increases in modern history. Our public servants risked their lives during the pandemic and made other concessions over the last 10 years during hard economic times.

These frontline workers, heroes to our community, are long past due for the material compensation that they deserve. We have all shown our love and support for our essential workers, but love and support doesn’t keep a nurse from losing their apartment due to skyrocketing rent. Love and support don’t keep our CMH providers and their families warm and fed through the winter. These and many other workers deserve the dignity and respect that they have earned through their service, and the voting public has the power to make sure that city and county administration’s do not get away with hollow arguments about incremental increases, we have already asked these workers enough, it’s time for us to be a part of rewarding them for their dedicated service to our communities. 
 Many thanks to Trent Varva of the Michigan AFL-CIO for submitting this article on behalf of the Huron Valley Area Labor Federation.

To learn how to take action to support the public sector workers who do so much to keep the country running, contact the leaders of the Huron Valley Area Labor Federation

3rd Annual Louis Nagel Concert
April 23, 2023

Sunday, April 23, 2023 at 4pm

Join fellow Democrats for a benefit performance for the Washtenaw County Democratic Party by highly acclaimed concert pianist Louis Nagel featuring music by Beethoven. Includes a special introduction by Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin.

Attend in person at the First Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Ann Arbor, or virtually by Zoom. For those who attend in person, light refreshments will follow the performance. Tickets are on sale now.

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