Truth Squad issues warnings on biz-backed ad on union measure

Who: (created by the Michigan Chamber of Commerce)

What: Internet ad -- "Michigan: From worst to 1st in job growth"

Truth Squad call: Warnings

Questionable statement: "Did you hear the news? Michigan leads the nation in job growth, from worst to first in the nation."

After making that assertion, the ad scrolls through a number of news headlines about Michigan’s recent economic growth.

The claim that Michigan leads the nation in job growth comes from a July 6 story by the online news site, which is posted on GrowMIjobs’ website. Michigan has had the largest drop in the unemployment rate among the 25 states that elected new governors in 2010, according to the story.’s jobless figures for Michigan are correct, but its analysis does not include changes in unemployment rates for all 50 states.

Job growth can be measured several ways, including changes in the unemployment rate, growth in payroll jobs and growth in the number of people who report finding jobs in the monthly government household survey.

Michigan’ unemployment rate has fallen from 10.9 percent in January 2011, the month Gov. Rick Snyder took office, to 8.6 percent in June, a 2.3 percentage point drop.

The state’s jobless rate has been dropping since August 2009, when it reached 14.2 percent. It’s interesting to note that the unemployment rate fell 3 percentage points between then and December 2010, Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s last month in office. That’s a bigger drop than what has occurred under Snyder.

And although Michigan’s unemployment rate has declined by nearly 40 percent since August 2009, the state was tied with Florida for having the 12th highest jobless rate in the country in June.

Questionable statement: "Michigan’s unemployment rate recently dropped to 8.3 percent"

The state’s unemployment rate was 8.3 percent in April, the lowest since July 2008. But it rose to 8.5 percent in May and to 8.6 percent in June, according to the latest available data.

Questionable statement: ". . . where 45,000 manufacturing jobs have been created in just the past two years. Only a third are in the auto industry."

It’s not clear exactly what the ad means by the past two years. But Michigan has created 49,500 manufacturing jobs in the past 24 months, including the last six months of the Granholm administration. About a third of those were in auto and auto parts manufacturing.

Questionable statement: "The union response? Ballot proposals . . . to halt Michigan’s reforms."

The ad then shows a video clip from a news conference held by Protect Our Jobs, a union-backed group that is seeking to put collective bargaining rights in the state constitution through a November ballot proposal

Should the question be certified by the state and passed by voters, collective bargaining rights for private and public sector workers would have constitutional standing. GrowMIJobs says this would invalidate a number of laws, including the 2011 rewrite of the state’s emergency manager law, which allows public union labor contracts to be ended, regardless of the outcome of a separate referendum on that law.

The video clip shows a Flint teacher saying, "This amendment provides a needed counterweight . . ." and is then cut off.

Questionable statement: "Counterweight? Like an anchor? Why would we do this now?"

The implication is that strengthening collective bargaining rights for workers would undo the economic progress Michigan has made in recent years. But the ad doesn’t say how that would happen.

On its website, GrowMIjobs says the ballot proposal is "squarely aimed at businesses and business leaders." But its analysis of the proposal focuses mainly on what it claims are the implications for state government and public sector unions.

As even the ad suggests, Michigan’s economic turnaround has been led by the recovery of the heavily unionized auto industry. But overall, only 17.5 percent of the state’s workers belonged to unions in 2011, down from 26 percent in 1989.

Overall impression: GrowMIjobs is a campaign created by the Michigan Chamber of Commerce.

Major contributors are: Michigan Chamber of Commerce, Lansing $158,280.22; Jackson National Life Insurance, Lansing $15,000; Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Southfield $5,500; Nestle Waters of North America, Stanwood $4,500; Citizens Insurance Co., Howell $4,500; Amway, Ada $4,500; Consumers Energy, Jackson $4,500; DTE Energy, Detroit $4,500; PHRMA, Indianapolis $3,750.

The ad’s clear intention is to show that Michigan has been climbing out of a deep economic hole under the leadership of Gov. Rick Snyder, and that the proposal to enshrine collective bargaining rights in the state constitution would undo that progress.

What isn’t so clear is how the proposal would harm Michigan economically. The ad merely hints that that it would be bad because organized labor is behind the measure.

The chamber might also be opposed to the collective bargaining proposal because passage would likely kill efforts to enact Right to Work in Michigan. Union leaders undertook the effort to get the measure on the ballot as a pre-emptive strike against potential Right to Work bills in the Legislature.

The Michigan Chamber of Commerce has not taken a formal position on Right to Work, but chamber President Rich Studley recently told Bridge Magazine that Indiana’s recent adoption of the measure should prompt Michigan to consider it.

Foul or no foul: There are no serious factual errors in this ad. But we’ll assess warnings for painting an incomplete picture of Michigan’s job growth since Snyder took office, and for not explaining how the collective bargaining proposal will harm Michigan.

Facts matter. Trust matters. Journalism matters.

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Big D
Tue, 08/14/2012 - 8:39am
"It’s interesting to note that the unemployment rate fell 3 percentage points between then and December 2010, Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s last month in office. That’s a bigger drop than what has occurred under Snyder." Let's see...that includes the period when Jenny was a lame duck. ...When everyone knew that times they were a'changing, that her policies were on the way out. Business resurgence. ...and the same will happen nationally in November.