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Letter to the Editor: Birmingham Teachers Union President Urges 'Yes' Vote on Prop 2

"It would be fair to conclude that during this time, collective bargaining has served the district very well," says Birmingham Education Association president Scott Warrow.

This letter was received by Birmingham Patch Editor Laura Houser.

The current Birmingham Board of Education has said time and again to its teachers and other employees that it values collective bargaining and discussion as way to resolve issues and get things done in this district. Even past Birmingham Boards of Education have expressed similar sentiments, dating all the way back to 1928, almost 85 years ago, when the first contractual settlement took place between the newly formed Birmingham Education Association and the Birmingham Public School district. 

Collective bargaining and cooperative negotiation has been a bedrock of Birmingham Public Schools since its inception. And in recent times, it has proven to be a peaceful and valuable way to work cooperatively during tough times.

In light of such a tradition of collaboration, it is important that we recognize the actual results that collective bargaining has provided to our students, and not be swayed by the unfounded hypothetical hyperbole shown in recent political ads. Over the last five years, the six unions that are represented in Birmingham have all made significant pay and insurance financial concessions through collective bargaining to help save the school district money in times of need. Moreover, given our history as a lighthouse district for attracting top-notch educators and providing outstanding educational service to families in Birmingham, it would be fair to conclude that during this time, collective bargaining has served the district very well.

But now, the existence of that very process, which we have valued in this school district is being stripped away by the present government in Michigan. The legislature has already passed no less than ten laws since January of 2010 that have ruled out many aspects of teaching that educators value, prohibitive subjects of bargaining. Furthermore, a recent court decision, interpreting these new laws, has determined that it is “illegal” for a member of the teaching staff to even talk about some these issue with the Board of Education. And those who follow the political winds in Lansing know that dozens more anti-public educator, anti-collective bargaining bills sit waiting to be voted on in the next legislative session this November.

So when asked why we educators support Proposition 2 and the constitutional right to collectively bargain, it is not because we want to add something more to what we have had the right to do in the past. It is not because we want to eliminate laws that benefit kids and have nothing to do with collective bargaining in the first place. And it is not because we want to take power away from school districts or the state government to make reasonable and good laws to educate students in Michigan; in fact, we agree with and have supported the authority of Birmingham Public Schools to hire and maintain the highly effective teaching staff it has. The reason we believe in the constitutional protection of collective bargaining is because we want to restore the right to have a legal dialogue with the school district about what is best for teaching and learning in this district.   

Even the Michigan PTA, representing over 60,000 parents, recognizes the importance of making collective bargaining a part of our state constitution. In its endorsement of Proposal 2, PTA President Shaton Berry writes: “Collective bargaining and the right to unionize are not issues that affect only a small portion of the population, they impact everyone….When we remove the voices of these respected professionals from decisions that affect all of us, society as a whole loses." 

The mission of the Birmingham Education Association is and always will be to advocate the best possible education for our students and the best possible working conditions for our staff. Collective bargaining is the means by which we always have and want to continue to fulfill this mission.

Scott Warrow
President, Birmingham Education Association

The viewpoints in this letter are those of the writers, and Patch is not responsible for any ideas portrayed as facts. For questions and clarifications, please leave a comment below or contact editor Laura Houser at laura.houser@patch.com or 248-534-9780.

Marcia Robovitsky November 02, 2012 at 12:15 PM
I believe that the ballot proposals that have the language in them to become part of the Michigan STATE CONSTITUTION should be voted NO. Those ballot proposals are numbers 2 thru 6. For me...the decision to vote NO is strictly on the fact that these issues do NOT belong in the state constitution.
Mercy Warren November 02, 2012 at 06:48 PM
Vote NO on PROPOSAL 2. I 100% agree with Marcia's comment. It is unwise to lock this proposal in the state constitution. This Amendment will repeal an unknown number of existing laws. No one knows how critical services will be affected. This is the WORST proposal that Michiganders could approve. It would set back all of our economic gains in the past two years. Businesses WILL NOT come to a state where there is uncertainty. It is shameful that Scott Warrow supports such a proposal that would wreak havoc on Michigan citizens. There are plenty of laws that protect the collective bargaining process in Michigan. And just because you see a bunch of the same signs on a street corner doesn't mean it's a good way to make your decision how to vote. IGNORE all the vote yes prop 2 signs that you see. On the proposals: YES on #1 - NO on all the rest #2-#6.
Dan Inloes November 03, 2012 at 03:20 PM
Proposal 2 was put on the ballot (by citizens signing petitions and courts recognizing its validity) as a response to a cheap-labor legislature bent on destroying public sector unions. It only seeks to protect already-existing rights. For Mercy to call Scott Warrow's support of the Proposal "shameful" (he is a union president, after all) seems the height of silliness.
Stacey Eggert November 03, 2012 at 04:57 PM
Scott, thank you for everything you do to put students first! You are an incredible teacher and union president! Vote YES on Proposal 2!
Jason Smith November 03, 2012 at 05:02 PM
It is interesting that many women don't want to amend the constitution when it was a constitutional amendment that gave women the right to vote. This is an ammendment that would protect citizens rights which is exactly what the constitution is supposed to do.. Vote yes!
Laura Redman November 03, 2012 at 07:02 PM
Scott's letter clearly outlines how collective bargaining has helped one of the top performing school districts in the nation, Birmingham, maintain such high standards for students. It seems that Marcia and Mercy ignore this fact and, ironically, mirror the same hyperbolic language of the vote no camp. Wreak havoc? How? By not allowing the governor to push through more anti-education laws? By reclaiming the rights that students and educators had before Snyder took office and funded 1.8 billion in tax breaks by taking a billion from education? If protecting educators' rights to negotiate students' best learning conditions with their immediate employers is "wreaking havoc", what do you call an anti education governor who takes it upon himself to erode those conditions and silence the negotiation process, even in top school districts?
dadof4 November 05, 2012 at 03:30 PM
Mr. Warrow point out there is a history of collaboration between the teachers union and Birmingham Public Schools. There is no need to make a Constitutional change to continue this collaboration. Vote NO NO NO NO and NO on all six of the proposals which make a change to our state constitution. These would be devastating to our state moving forward.

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