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Truth Squad calls foul on pro-Proposal 2 'lying' claim

MICHIGAN TRUTH SQUAD ANALYSIS: “Mask” “Enforcement” and “Collective Bargaining Protects Jobs”

Who: Protect Working Families, Pro-Proposal 2 ballot group

What: TV/Internet ads

Truth Squad call: Foul

Proposal 2 would “grant public and private employees the constitutional right to organize and bargain collectively through labor unions.”

According to a report by the independent, nonpartisan Citizens Research Council of Michigan, Proposal 2 is an effort to combat recent actions taken by the governor and Legislature to restrict the bargaining power and costs of public sector workers. Those recent actions include restriction of teacher tenure, requiring public employees to pay more for health-care premiums and prohibit minimum staffing levels for police and firefighters. Further, Proposal 2, would, according to the Citizens Research Council, “effectively restrict the ability of the Michigan Legislature to enact right to work legislation.”

Protecting Working Families, formerly Protect Our Jobs, is the ballot committee in favor of Proposal 2. It is primarily funded by labor interests and had raised $8 million by the end of July. Ballot committees will report their finances again at the end of October.

Questionable statement: “Having the most modern, dependable equipment? When the clock is ticking, that counts. That’s why I support collective bargaining. It means we negotiate for gear we need, to protect your lives and ours. If it comes from collective bargaining, the politicians can’t cut it without our say-so.” (Mask)

A firefighter in full gear – identified as Mike Hendricks of Lincoln Park – breathes through the mask of an air pack as he delivers his lines, saying the pack “gives me 30 minutes to look inside your burning house and find you.” Workers negotiate for their equipment, he says, implying that without collective bargaining, firefighters might find themselves under-equipped to do their jobs.

Michigan State Fire Marshal Richard Miller said equipment is “sometimes” a topic for labor negotiations, although by no means all the time; many departments are staffed by volunteers and consequently have no labor agreements, yet are still adequately equipped.

Miller said most departments follow standards set by the National Fire Protection Association, a 116-year-old nonprofit whose mission is to “reduce the worldwide burden of fire and other hazards on the quality of life by providing and advocating consensus codes and standards, research, training and education.” Miller refused to comment on the connection between labor agreements and the efficacy of firefighting.

Questionable statement: “The No on 2 campaign is lying about collective bargaining. The Truth Squad called the claims ‘questionable’ and a ‘foul.’ Yes on 2 doesn’t change any laws that protect our kids. It’s the opposite. Yes on 2 protects kids in schools and on our streets, by allowing those who care for them to negotiate for training and tools they need to keep kids safe.” (Enforcement)

This ad seeks to rebut claims by the various groups opposed to Proposal 2, which have run several ads claiming the law could be dangerous to children.

The No on 2 campaign’s claims rest on a letter by Attorney General Bill Schuette, cited repeatedly by Prop 2 opponents, that lays out a long list of Michigan laws he believes could be nullified or compromised should the proposal pass. Previous Truth Squad analyses have found those claims to range from foul (that passage could lead to sexual predators in classrooms) to no foul (on claims about school safety and the potential for teacher strikes), noting that they rest on shaky semantic ground between “would” and “could.”

Given the uncertainty about the effects of Proposal 2, making such a distinction is crafty, but defensible, the Truth Squad ruled: “Since there is not clear legal agreement on what Prop 2 will or won’t do, the use of the word "could" do something is tough, but in-bounds.

But this ad pivots on a bold counter-claim: “It’s the opposite.” Without collective bargaining, the ad implies, public-safety officers wouldn’t be able to negotiate for “training and tools they need to keep kids safe.”

As in the case of the firefighters, collective bargaining can cover many work-related matters, including training and tools. Whether it’s only those training and tools that “keep kids safe” is a matter of interpretation.

The final spot, “Protect Jobs,” displays a number of statistics, all taken from a report by the Economic Policy Institute, which describes itself as “a non-profit, non-partisan think tank, created in 1986 to broaden discussions about economic policy to include the needs of low- and middle-income workers. EPI believes every working person deserves a good job with fair pay, affordable health care, and retirement security.”  The EPI just published the 12th edition of its comprehensive report, “State of Working America.”

The data offered by the video points out the lost ground by the working class in Michigan, which in general is more productive, but earning less than it was 20 or 30 years ago. The report is a policy brief in support of collective bargaining.

Overall impression: The ads attempt to link collective bargaining rights to public safety and to economic improvement – two themes that always attract the attention of the voter.

Foul or no foul: Foul. The “Enforcement” ad says Prop 2 opponents are “lying.” It fails to detail that case, but rather offers a bland description of training and equipment equaling protection. The “Mask” ad pushes it right to the edge by giving viewers the impression that public safety officers would be poorly equipped were it not for collective bargaining, but the implication doesn’t reach the level of a foul.

The Center for Michigan (the parent company of Bridge Magazine and the Michigan Truth Squad) has been financially supported by a wide range of corporate and foundation supporters. We are grateful to all funders for helping us create and grow a new nonprofit journalism service for Michigan citizens. Those funders have absolutely no role in the editorial decisions of the Michigan Truth Squad or Bridge Magazine.

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