Do Lansing Leaders Favor Unions over Citizens?
January 4, 2012



My recent investigation into City of Lansing employee compensation has revealed that they do very well, indeed. Some examples:

  • Out of about 1100 permanent employees, 235 had 2010 earnings over $70,000.

  • Average salary for 152 police officers in 2010 was $55,099; average earnings were $60,362.

  • Average salary for 88 firefighters in 2010 was $56,589; average earnings were $66,596.

  • Police and firefighters can retire at any age after 25 years. Police pensions average 93.9% of salary and fire pensions average 91.3% of salary.

There seems to be a love affair between unions and some of our city leaders:

  • In Virg Bernero's 2009 mayoral campaign, he was endorsed by Fraternal Order of Police, the Teamsters, the UAW, and the firefighters union. In his 2010 gubernatorial campaign, "the angriest mayor in America" was the champion of the working man. (To be fair, Bernero was also included in a list of "Michigan's Most Odious" by Eric Baerren , editor of Michigan, who said in a December 31, 2011 post:

Virg Bernero built a national public persona going on Fox News and shouting, shouting, shouting about the working man. The working man is getting screwed in America by the rich, he howled on Fox News, and now appears with semi-regularity with MSNBC's professional shout machine, Ed Schulz.

Oh, but that Tee Vee reflected reality. Back at home, the pitbull for the working man has regularly tossed his own union workers under the bus to benefit Lansing's 1 percent. This is not some new development, mind you. Teamsters in the city went more than 1,000 days without a contract, a period during which they filed an unfair labor practice against him for hiring scabs to save money and demanding the sort of wage and benefits concessions Bernero says on Tee Vee are destroying the middle class.

While you can't blame a municipal leader for trying to make shrinking dollars go the furthest, you can blame a guy for doing it while shouting about the evils of things he's doing before a national audience.

It's tough when liberal politicians are faced with having to balance a budget.)

  • City council member Carol Wood boasted of several union endorsements in her 2011 campaign, including Lansing Firefighters Local 421.

  • City council member Derrick Quinney is health and safety director of the Michigan AFL-CIO and a UAW member.

  • Newly-elected 1st ward council member Jody Washington had the endorsements of the MEA, the Fraternal Order of Police, the Lansing Firefighters union, the Michigan Nurses Association, the United Auto Workers union, the Greater Lansing Labor Council, the Greater Lansing Building Trades, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the Plumbers and Pipefitters union, and the Southeast Michigan Building Trades.

After Lansing voters rejected a millage increase in May 2011, 36 police officers and 11 firefighters were laid off. Even after a 4 mill increase was approved in November 2011 with 3 mills dedicated to police and firefighters, there remained the possibility of additional layoffs.

You would think that faced with layoffs as a result of budget constraints, loyalty and brotherhood among public safety workers would lead them to share the pain and agree to wage concessions rather than allow fellow employees to lose their jobs. However, union member solidarity does not seem to extend to members with low seniority.

And since layoffs result in less police and fire protection for the city, wage concessions are far better for Lansing citizens.

Remember in October when Davenport University backed out of a deal to swap land with the City and build a $13 million, 60,000-square foot building downtown, on the Oliver Towers property? It was because council members Carol Wood, Brian Jeffries, Derrick Quinney and Eric Hewitt voted against hearing Davenport's presentation. It seemed like such a great deal for Lansing, and no one could figure out why it could not at least be given a fair hearing. Could it be that it was because Davenport, which has a non-union staff, would  be competing head-to-head with heavily-unionized Lansing Community College?