Labor Board Orders New Union Election at Amazon Warehouse

Amazon warehouse in Maryland

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ordered a new unionization election at an Amazon warehouse in Alabama, ruling that the company violated federal labor law during the first election.

“Today’s decision confirms what we were saying all along – that Amazon’s intimidation and interference prevented workers from having a fair say in whether they wanted a union in their workplace – and as the Regional Director has indicated, that is both unacceptable and illegal,” Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) President Stuart Appelbaum said in a statement Monday.

“Amazon workers deserve to have a voice at work, which can only come from a union,” he continued.

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Whitmer Directive Accelerates Replacing Michigan’s Lead Service Water Lines

Gretchen Whitmer

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is trying to use federal funds from a recently-signed infrastructure package to accelerate the replacement of lead service lines.

Whitmer signed an executive directive (ED) for the Legislature to work with the State Budget Office to spend federal funds to accelerate the replacement of lead service lines (LSL).

“Right now, we have an incredible opportunity to put Michiganders first by using the funds we will be getting under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to ensure every community has safe drinking water,” Whitmer said in a statement. “With this executive directive, we are accelerating the timeline to replace 100% of lead service lines in Michigan, prioritizing communities that have been disproportionately impacted, fostering enhanced collaboration across departments, and ensuring that the projects are built by Michigan workers and businesses. I look forward to working with the legislature to invest these dollars and get the job done.” 

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20 Months into Pandemic, over 20,000 Michigan State Workers Remote

Woman working in the evening on her laptop

Twenty months after the COVID-19 pandemic struck Michigan, downtown Lansing hasn’t recovered fully. Half of the state’s roughly 48,000 employees are still working remotely.

The disappearance of daily consumption habits of more than 22,000 state workers have hurt local businesses, whether that’s grabbing a bagel from The New Daily Bagel, rolls from AnQi Sushi Express or a shake from Soul Nutrition. Some businesses have adjusted accordingly, cutting hours, closing locations, and reducing menus.

The Michigan Department of Technology, Management, and Budget (DTMB) Spokesman Caleb Buhs said about half of state workers are working remotely on a daily basis.

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New Michigan Budget Expands Cheaper Child Care

Boy in short sleeve shirt writing name with brunette woman next to him at a desk

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer welcomed the expansion of free or low-cost child care to 105,000 more kids via the expanded income eligibility criteria in the latest bipartisan budget.

Families of four earning up to $49,000 will be eligible for free or low-cost child care under new criteria, helping parents return to work 

“We need to continue working hard to drive down costs for families and expand access to high-quality, affordable childcare so parents can go to work knowing that their kids are safe and learning,” Whitmer said in a statement. “I was proud to put childcare first in the bipartisan budget I signed in September. Together, we lowered costs for working families by expanding low or no-cost care to 105,000 kids and providing grants to improve childcare programs and empower childcare professionals. Countless working parents rely on childcare, and we must continue expanding high-quality care to help every working family thrive.”

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Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Requests $59M Increase in Next Year’s Budget

Gov. Bill Lee

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation requested a $59 million budget increase in its budget hearing this week with Gov. Bill Lee and advisers.

The request includes $24.9 million for a career path initiative that will assist with recruitment and retention of staff, an issue many government agencies cited in hearings this week.

TBI’s proposal also included requests for $11.7 million for one-time training and equipment and $10.2 million to hire forensic services positions, including $5.65 million in recurring expenses and $4.5 million in one-time expenses.

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Starbucks Announces Wage Hikes Amidst Labor Struggles

Outside view of Starbucks Coffee

Seattle-based Starbucks announced it will increase hourly wages next year as the coffee giant faces the dual pressures of unionization attempts and staffing shortages.

According to a press release from the company, starting in January of 2022, hourly employees with two or more years of service could see a 5% raise and those with five or more years of service could see a 10% raise.

By the summer of next year, the company says its average hourly pay will be $17, up from the current average of $14. Employees will make between $15 and $23 an hour across the country, depending on location and tenure.

The press release did not address what impact the moves will have on coffee prices.

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Arizonans Fired over COVID Vaccination Might Not Get Unemployment

Arizona’s largest hospital system and others have set a Monday deadline for their employees to be vaccinated or face termination, but some employees who already have been fired for refusing a vaccine are learning they aren’t eligible for unemployment benefits. 

Banner Health, ValleyWise Health, HonorHealth and Dignity Health are set to require COVID-19 vaccinations Monday. Others have set deadlines that already have passed.

Mayo Clinic, a Minnesota-based hospital nonprofit with two facilities in the valley, announced in July it would require all employees to be vaccinated by Sept. 17. In a release, it said staff who declined to be vaccinated for COVID-19 “must complete education modules and will be required to wear masks and socially distance when on campus.”

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Bipartisan Michigan Bills Aims to Restore Tax Incentives for Business Development

Mark Tisdel and

A bipartisan bill aims to revive a killed business subsidy incentive that they say will spur new job creation in Michigan.

State Reps. Mark Tisdel, R-Rochester Hills and Angela Witwer, D-Delta Township, introduced House Bills (HB) 5425 and 5426 that aim to form the Michigan Employment Opportunity Program (MEOP) to provide incentives for business developments similar to the Good Jobs for Michigan (GJFM) program, which expired in 2019. 

“The Michigan Employment Opportunity Program will form a public-private partnership to bring good jobs to our state,” Tisdel said in a statement. “Government can make it easier for businesses to invest in our communities and support more Michigan workers, bringing economic growth – and the revenue that comes with it.”

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COVID Vaccination Mandate Bill in Front of New Ohio Committee

An Ohio bill that would end COVID-19 vaccination mandates and nearly passed the House last week is back in front of another committee with health care groups from around the state lined up in opposition.

House Bill 435, the Vaccine Fairness Act, received hearings in front of the House Labor and Commerce Committee on Wednesday and Thursday.

The legislation would provide broad exemptions for COVID-19 vaccination mandates from public and private employers and schools. It also would stop any entity from mandating a COVID-19 vaccine that has not been fully approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and prohibit government-ordered vaccine passports.

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Michigan Gov. Whitmer’s Reinstated Prevailing Wage Rules Rewards Union Donors, Critics Say

Gov. Grethcen Whitmer announces that Michigan received a $10 million grant to support the state’s registered apprenticeship expansion efforts and increase employment opportunities for Michiganders.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s announcement this week that she is reinstating the state’s prevailing wage rules is drawing accusations that the move is nothing more than a sop to the governor’s extensive list of donors affiliated with organized labor.

“Governor Whitmer is putting campaign donors before Michigan’s hardworking taxpayers,” Eric Ventimiglia, executive director for Michigan Rising Action, said in a statement that included an extensive list of skilled trades unions that have contributed to the governor’s campaign war chest. “Hundreds of thousands of Michiganders worked to place this initiative in front of the legislature, and her unilateral decision to break the law is another example of Whitmer pandering to her highest donors.”

Among the donors listed by MRA are the Painters & Allied Trades Political Action Committee; Michigan Council of Carpenters PAC; Michigan State AFL-CIO; and several pipefitters unions.

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Ohio Judge Allows Municipal-Income-Tax Challenge to Go Forward

Dr. Manal Morsy

A judge has ruled a lawsuit challenging the city of Cleveland’s ability to collect income tax from a doctor who had not worked in the city during the pandemic can go forward.

Dr. Manal Morsy’s lawsuit, one of several filed against Ohio cities by The Buckeye Institute, tests a state law that was altered during the COVID-19 pandemic to continue to allow cities to collect taxes from workers who did not work in those cities.

Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Judge Dick Ambrose denied Cleveland’s motion to dismiss Wednesday.

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Georgia Department of Public Safety: Salary Increase for Employees Is ‘Mandatory’

officer using radar gun in SUV to check Georgia residents' speed

One of Georgia’s top law enforcement officials is calling on Georgia lawmakers to increase taxpayer-funded pay and benefits for state law enforcement employees.

Georgia Department of Public Safety Chief of Staff Maj. Joshua Lamb told members of the Senate Retirement Security for Georgians Study Committee on Thursday it is “mandatory” to increase pay to recruit and keep current law enforcement employees.

Lamb said the department has a 22% turnover rate and annual job applications have decreased by 60% over the past three years.

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University of Michigan-Flint Grant to Support 300 Jobs, $10.4M Investment in Flint

The U.S. Secretary of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) awarded a $3.8 million Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) Recovery Assistance grant to the University of Michigan-Flint, Flint, to construct the university’s new College of Innovation and Technology.

The grant, to be matched with $4.9 million in local funds, is expected to create 126 jobs, retain 175 jobs, and generate $10.4 million in private investment.

“We are grateful to Secretary Raimondo and the Biden Administration for investing in University of Michigan-Flint’s College of Innovation and Technology,” Whitmer said in a statement. “This grant will help us usher in a new era of prosperity by supporting over 300 good-paying jobs and generating $10.4 million in private investment.” 

Mayor Sheldon Neeley welcomed the investment.

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Arizona Fully Recovers Pandemic Job Losses

Person using a laptop, pointing to the screen

More than 100% of private sector jobs in Arizona have been recovered since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the August employment report. 

 The Arizona Office of Economic Opportunity report showed that Arizona has recovered 325,500 private-sector jobs since April 2020, representing 101% of private-sector jobs lost. 

 Between July and August, Arizona’s unemployment fell by about 13,000 people. The unemployment rate dropped from 6.6% to 6.2%, marking the largest rate decline of the year. 

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Thousands of Public Workers Seek Vaccine Exemptions in Washington

Doctor with mask on holding COVID-19 Vaccine

Some 4,800 state employees in Washington have already requested medical or religious exemptions from Gov. Jay Inslee’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

According to information released this week by the state, those requests amount to nearly 8% of the 60,000 state workers who fall under Inslee’s 24 cabinet departments. As of Sept. 6, less than 50% of all employees in those agencies were verified as being fully vaccinated.

Inslee last month issued an executive order that all state employees, as well as K-12 and state university staff, must be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18 or face dismissal.

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Arizona Police Recruiting in Washington Days After Vaccine Mandate

Arizona state trooper SUV in desert

Arizona’s state police force is in the Pacific Northwest in an attempt to bolster its ranks. The push comes on the heels of news that Washington Gov. Jay Inslee isn’t allowing exceptions to his vaccine mandate.

The Arizona Department of Public Safety announced that they would be in Washington from Sept. 7 through Sept. 19 to recruit potential new officers. 

Their counterpart, the Washington State Patrol, shared Arizona’s announcement on Twitter. 

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Detroit Schools Reach New Contract with Union

Terrence Martin and

The Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD), Michigan’s largest public education system responsible for educating 51,000 children, has reached a new agreement with the Detroit Federation of Teachers (DFT) Local 231 on a two-year successor contract before starting the ’21-22 school year.

DPSCD Superintendent Dr. Nikolai Vitti and DFT President Terrance Martin agreed to terms on August 26, and DFT members ratified the agreement on September 1.

In August, the unit reached a safe reopening plan outlining the safety guidelines, additional hazards, and blended learning bonuses.

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Report: Afghan Women Forced into Marriages with Men Eligible for Evacuation

Afghan women in Kabul

Afghan women were reportedly forced into marriages with men who were eligible for evacuation from the country, CNN reported Thursday.

U.S. officials notified the State Department about some Afghan women and girls showing up with men pretending to be their husbands or after being forced into marriages with men eligible for evacuation, two sources familiar with the matter reportedly told CNN.

Some women are reportedly resorting to these unusual relationships in order to flee Taliban rule, CNN reported. Families of Afghan women at a transit hub in the United Arab Emirates arranged for such marriages at the Kabul international airport in Afghanistan so that women may leave, according to CNN.

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Michigan Lawmaker Calls on Unemployment Insurance Agency for Answers About Benefit Blunder

Rep. Steve Johnson

The leaders of the Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) knew as early as Jan. 6 they erred in developing qualifications for benefits, but didn’t tell the 700,000 Michiganders affected for nearly six months.

The Detroit News first broke the story.

After Jan. 6, the UIA tried to retroactively charge some benefit recipients up to $27,000 for the state’s mistake, instead of admitting it erred.

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Rieth-Riley Workers Win Settlements Against Union for Illegal Strike Retaliation

Rieth-Riley Construction paving a parking lot

Michigan Rieth-Riley Construction Company employees Rob Nevins and Jesse London won settlements against the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 324 union.

The settlements order IUOE union bosses not to discriminate against London and Nevins for leaving the union and pay $364 to London for owed health insurance premium.

The settlements stem from charges of retaliation the workers filed during the strike IUOE union bosses ordered in mid-2019. London and Nevins ended their union memberships and chose to keep working.

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Ohio State Employees to Be Paid to Get Vaccinated

Doctor giving vaccination to patient

Ohio plans to spend more federal tax dollars to convince more people to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Gov. Mike DeWine recently announced the state plans to pay $100 to each state employee for getting the vaccine. Their spouses would receive $25.

For spouses and employees enrolled in the state medical plan, the money will come from funds dedicated to state employee health and wellness, which is funded through state employee payroll deductions and state agency contributions. For those not enrolled, the state will use coronavirus relief funds. That is a small number of employees, according to Molly O’Reilly McGhee, public information officer for the Administrative Support Division.

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Report: Many Tennessee Economic Indicators Trend up, Others Mixed

Tootsie's Orchid Lounge, Nashville, Tennessee. One of Nashville's renowned honky-tonk bars, Tootsie's has featured over the years many performing artists who have since become famous, such as Willie Nelson, Patsy Cline and Kris Kristofferson.

How is Tennessee’s economy doing? A lot of it is doing well when compared to the COVID-19 lows on many economic indicators such as employment, a new Sycamore Institute report shows.

But other items are troubling, such as there being 40% fewer small businesses in Tennessee as of late June data than there were before the pandemic. That’s considering that 99% of private sector workers in the state work for small businesses, defined as companies of 500 employees or less.

“There are a lot of things going on here,” said Brian Straessle, the Sycamore Institute’s Director of External Affairs. “There isn’t like one nice neat narrative of the economy right now.”

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Michigan Jobs 322,000 Under Pre-Pandemic Level

Detroit skyline at night

Sixteen months after the COVID-19 pandemic began, Michigan is still behind 322,000 jobs compared to pre-pandemic in Feb. 2020. 

Michigan’s seasonally adjusted jobless rate of 5% percent was unchanged in June, according to data released by the Michigan Department of Technology, Management & Budget.

“Michigan’s labor market indicators were little changed in June,” Wayne Rourke, the associate director of the Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives, said in a statement. “The Michigan unemployment rate has been near 5.0 percent for five consecutive months. Payroll job counts in June were similar to March levels.”

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Ducey Invests Millions of Federal Dollars to Start Visit Arizona Initiative

Three people on bikes in Arizona during sundown

Gov. Doug Ducey is investing $101.1 million from the federal American Rescue Plan funding to launch the Visit Arizona Initiative to increase tourism spending in Arizona and expedite its economic recovery. 

“Tourism is essential for Arizona’s booming economy and job growth,” Ducey said in a release. 

He said that when tourists stay at Arizona hotels, eat at restaurants, buy Arizona products, and partake in the state’s recreational activities, Arizona’s economy booms.

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New Unemployment Claims Jump 42 Percent in Tennessee

Nearly 9,400 new unemployment claims were filed in Tennessee last week; the highest weekly total since mid-April.

Only nine states had more new unemployment claims than Tennessee last week. The 9,376 new claims last week represented a 42% increase from the previous week’s 6,596 new claims.

The jump in new claims came after the state stopped its participation in the federal supplemental pandemic relief unemployment program, which gives those on unemployment an additional $300 weekly through the first week of September. The final two weeks of June were the lowest claims totals since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

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Federal Reserve Chair: Inflation to be ‘Elevated for Months’

Jerome Powell

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell tried to calm lawmakers’ fears about rising inflation but also said it would probably remain elevated for months to come.

Testifying before Congress this week, Powell said the Federal Reserve was willing to step in to address the situation, but that inflation should level out next year.

“As always, in assessing the appropriate stance of monetary policy, we will continue to monitor the implications of incoming information for the economic outlook and would be prepared to adjust the stance of monetary policy as appropriate if we saw signs that the path of inflation or longer-term inflation expectations were moving materially and persistently beyond levels consistent with our goal,” Powell said in his prepared testimony.

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Gov. Whitmer Secures $10 Million Grant to Expand Employment Opportunities

A male doing electrical work with a ball cap and safety glasses on

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO) has been awarded a $10 million federal grant to support the state’s registered apprenticeship expansion efforts.

“As we put Michigan back to work, Registered Apprenticeship programs offer on-ramps to high-demand, high-skill careers, and in Michigan we have committed to expanding these educational opportunities to ensure more Michiganders can get good-paying jobs,” Whitmer said in a statement.

“Increasing access to education and training opportunities will help us achieve our 60 by 30 goal to have 60% of Michigan’s adult with post-secondary education or skills training by 2030, improve the quality of life and help Michiganders secure good-paying jobs, and ensure businesses have the workforce they need to succeed and grow our economy.” 

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As Economy Recovers, Arizona Businesses Struggle to Fill Job Openings

Help wanted sign

Recent Bureau of Labor Statistics data revealed that the nation hit a record high for job openings in April of 2021, yet employers around America are not receiving enough job applications to fill their available positions. 

Though the Bureau of Labor counted 9.3 million job openings in June, the unemployment rate remains at 5.8%, notwithstanding the millions of Americans not seeking employment. 

Express Employment Professionals, a staffing agency, suggested in a press release that stimulus payments, unemployment benefits, and recent tax refunds are deterring job applications as those on the hunt for employment have the option to hold out for jobs which meet their demands and goals. 

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Commentary: Unions’ Focus on Woke over Work Rankles Rank and File

Los Angeles school teacher Glenn Laird has been a union stalwart for almost four decades. He served as a co-chair of his school’s delegation to United Teachers Los Angeles and proudly wore union purple on the picket line.

But Laird is now suing to leave UTLA and demanding a refund of the dues the union has collected since his resignation request. His turning point came in July 2020 when the union, the second largest teachers union in the country, joined liberal activists to demand that Los Angeles defund the police in response to Black Lives Matter demonstrations.

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Gov. Abbott: Democratic Legislators to Be Arrested upon Return to Texas

Photo caption from Twitter says " Conversation Dan Patrick @DanPatrick Smiling House Dems fly off to DC on a private jet with a case of Miller Lite, breaking House quorum, abandoning their constituents, while the Senate still works. It’s my hope that Senate Dems report tomorrow to do what they were elected to do."

More than 60 House Democrats who fled Austin Monday to prevent a vote on election reforms will be arrested when they return to Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott said.

“Once they step back into the state of Texas, they will be arrested and brought to the Texas capital and we will be conducting business,” Abbott said.

The 67 Democratic lawmakers flew on chartered flights to Washington D.C. in protest of proposed legislation seeking to reduce the chances of fraud in future elections. The legislation is one of a number of measures being considered during a July special session called by Abbott.

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Ohio May Forgive Overpaid, Fraudulent Unemployment Payments

Woman on computer

Ohioans victimized by unemployment fraud or were overpaid unemployment benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic could be off the hook for repaying those funds, according to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.

ODJFS Director Matt Damschroder said late last week if a waiver is approved, claimants will not have to repay money previously labelled as an overpayment and also could receive benefits that have been withheld because of an overpayment status.

Claimants should be notified soon of how to apply for a waiver and processing could begin later in the summer, Damschroder said.

“We understand the hardships that overpayments caused during what is already a very stressful time.” Damschroder said. “Our unemployment program is in a much better position than it was a year ago.”

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Georgia Long-Term Care Facilities Face Financial Hardship from Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a financial toll on Georgia’s long-term care facilities, officials said.

Devon Barill, communications director for the Georgia Health Care Association and Georgia Center for Assisted Living (GHCA/GCAL), said the facilities have faced increased expenses and revenue losses from caring for the state’s most vulnerable population.

While COVID-19 can lead to severe complications in older people and those with underlying issues, the congregated facilities are often home to the elderly and people who require supportive care.

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Virginia Extends Expanded Childcare Subsidies for the Rest of the Year

Additional childcare subsidies provided during the COVID-19 pandemic will be extended until the end of 2021, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced Wednesday.

The state program, which provides financial assistance for childcare services, temporarily loosened the eligibility requirements through July 31, 2021. Northam directed the Virginia Department of Education to continue covering copayments through December 31, using federal COVID-19 relief funds.

“Access to high-quality child care is not only critical to the health and safety of Virginia’s children, but it is also important for advancing a strong, equitable recovery,” Northam said in a statement. “Extending these resources through the end of 2021 will help close the affordability gap for parents and providers, allowing thousands of Virginians to return to work, support their families, and grow our economy.”

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Michigan Employment Numbers Pick Up Pace for State’s Pandemic Recovery

Blue Collar worker with hard hat on

Michigan’s recovery from the massive unemployment endured during the COVID-19 pandemic is among the fastest in the country, last week’s employment numbers indicate.

That assessment is according to a recently released WalletHub report, which ranked the state fifth nationwide for progress made between the previous week and the week of June 21, 2021, and fourth nationwide for the smallest increase in initial unemployment claims between the beginning of 2020 and the week of June 21, 2021.

Michigan was ranked 13th nationwide for quickest unemployment recovery since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020.

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Largest Health Care Union to Fight Mandatory Vaccine Requirements for Workers

Doctor giving vaccination to patient

The president of the largest union of health care workers in the U.S. says it will fight companies requiring its members to have mandatory COVID-19 shots as a condition of employment.

The announcement came one day after Houston Methodist announced that 153 employees had been fired or resigned for refusing to get the shots as a condition of employment. Those suing argue requiring employees to receive a vaccine approved only through Emergency Use Authorization violates federal law. After a recent court dismissal, their attorney vowed to take the case all the way to the Supreme Court.

George Gresham, president of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, is weighing the organization’s legal options.

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Michigan Senate Votes to End $300 Weekly Federal Unemployment Benefits

The Michigan Senate voted 19-16 to approve House Bill 4434, which aims to end the state’s participation in boosted $300/week federal unemployment program.

Republicans have argued the benefit hinders economic recovery 15 months after the pandemic started.

Business owners told lawmakers on June 17 they can’t find workers, even after hiking pay, signing bonuses, and flexible hours. Some industries have seen as many as 35% of workers not return post-COVID-19, leaving some gas stations wondering if they’ll get enough gas.

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New Tennessee Jobless Claims Hit Pandemic Low as State Ends Federal Supplemental Benefits Next Week

Help wanted sign

Tennessee had its lowest number of new unemployment claims last week since the impact of COVID-19 began in March 2020.

The state’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development reported 4,736 new claims the week ending June 19. It’s the first time that total was less than 5,500 in a week since the week of March 14, 2020.

The previous low during that stretch was 5,789 for the week of Nov. 28, 2020.

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Kemp Ends Georgia’s Public Health State of Emergency as of July 1

Georgia’s public health state of emergency will end on July 1 under an executive order signed by Gov. Brian Kemp.

Kemp first declared a public health state of emergency on March 14, 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The declaration helps the state easily access supplies and other resources needed to combat the spread of the coronavirus. It lifts certain medical and commercial transportation regulations.

Tuesday’s order extends the declaration by one day and one minute.

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Michigan House Votes to Suspend $300 Weekly Federal Unemployment Payments

David Martin

The Michigan House of Representatives voted to approve House Bill 4434, which would end the state’s participation in the federal unemployment program.

The bill passed Thursday by a 350-49 vote, and now moves to the Michigan Senate.

House Republicans rallied hard behind the bill, which would immediately halt the federally funded $300 weekly boost to Michigan unemployment checks. The federal program currently is scheduled to cease in September, but legislators argue the additional money is hindering the state’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Michigan to Fully Open Tuesday

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has once again ditched her COVID-19 reopening plan, announcing the state will drop its COVID-19 restrictions on June 22. Her previous plan dropped restrictions on July 1.

“Today is a day that we have all been looking forward to, as we can safely get back to normal day-to-day activities and put this pandemic behind us,” Whitmer said in a statement.

Whitmer thanked those who received vaccinations. She also thanked medical staff and other frontline workers. 

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Activists Look to the Future of Oil Pipelines Following Keystone XL Cancellation

Anti Keystone XL pipeline citizens

After the cancellation of the Keystone XL Pipeline struck a blow to the oil industry, energy jobs activists are pushing back by warning of increased costs and touting the benefits of transporting oil via pipeline.

TC Energy Corporation announced on Wednesday that it was cancelling the Keystone XL Pipeline less than five months after President Joe Biden rescinded a vital permit for the pipeline. The cancellation ends an over 12-year battle by activists from both sides over the oil pipeline. The pipeline would have started in the Canadian province of Alberta ultimately ending in Nebraska.

In a statement François Poirier, President and CEO of TC Energy Corporation, expressed disappointment.

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Metro Atlanta Leaders to Use Federal Money to Address Crime

Keisha Lance Bottoms

Leaders in the metro Atlanta area said they plan to use American Rescue Plan funding to address public safety issues.

Officials in Fulton and DeKalb counties and the city of Atlanta have announced plans to use a portion of the federal aid to increase public safety or address criminal justice backlogs.

According to several reports, Atlanta and adjacent cities have seen a spike in crime over the past year. State lawmakers have launched a study to look at ways to curb the issue. Gov. Brian Kemp directed $5 million last month from his emergency fund to address the crisis.

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Michigan Secretary of State Benson Adds 350,000 Appointments, Other Changes to Clear Backlog

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s offices are adding 350,000 appointments, greeters at office doors to assist in scheduling visits, and priority service for residents needing a disability placard to clear a 13-month backlog during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We were able to do this after discussions with our frontline workers who, concerned about the chatter here in Lansing to revert back to a broken ‘take a number and wait’ system, suggested ways they could work harder and faster to be able to handle more transactions efficiently and quickly,” Benson said at an in-person press conference. “It’s an extraordinary testament not just to their dedication to the department but their recognition that having residents schedule their visits ahead of time is a vastly superior way of doing business.” 

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Virginia DMV Expands Appointment Opportunities Reduced During Pandemic

People at windows of DMV

The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles is gradually expanding its appointment opportunities this month and next month now that most of the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions have come to an end.

Starting June 1, the DMV opened 184,000 additional appointment opportunities  and the department will open up more appointments June 15 and again in July. Residents can secure their slots for the June 15 appointment expansion at this time. The department is hiring and training new employees to keep up with the higher number of appointments.

“Virginians have told us they appreciate the convenience and high quality service the appointment system affords,” Commissioner Richard D. Holcomb said in a news release at the time of the announcement. “The Governor’s announcement … enables us to open more windows so customers can secure appointments sooner, but we are still taking great care to offer service that is safe for everyone.”

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Peloton Picks Ohio for Its First U.S. Factory

Peloton bike

Peloton Interactive announced plans to build its first U.S. factory in Ohio, creating more than 2,000 jobs and investing more than $400 million in the state-of-the-art factory.

The new facility, in Troy Township between Toledo and Bowling Green, will be named Peloton Output Park and will produce Peloton Bike, Bike+ and Peloton Tread starting in 2023. It will employee 2,174 people and generate $138 million in new payroll.

The state approved a 2.301%, 15-year job creation tax credit for the company.

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Starkist Moving Headquarters from Pennsylvania to Virginia

Starkist Tuna

Packaged tuna manufacturer Starkist is closing up its headquarters in Pittsburgh and moving to northern Virginia, but most of the details about the move have not been revealed.

Starkist will close its office in the North Shore of Pittsburgh on March 31, 2022, but will maintain a presence in the area. Its new headquarters will open in northern Virginia in 2022, but the company did not say in which locality.

The company did not announce the reasons for its relocation. No announcements have been made related to taxpayer-funded subsidies or other incentives, which could be part of a deal.

Starkist has been owned by South Korea-based Dongwon Industries since 2008. It employs about 2,630 people and generates more than $24 million in revenue, according to Zippia.

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Whitmer, Legislature Reach Deal on COVID-19 Restrictions, Collaborate Spending Billions

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

After 14 months of fighting over COVID-19 policy, GOP leaders and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer reached an agreement Thursday to negotiate the state budget and stimulus money in return for setting a date to end COVID-19 restrictions.

In return, Whitmer has agreed to withdraw the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (MIOSHA) proposed permanent rules and discuss legislative input on epidemic orders.

“Throughout the pandemic, we saw Michiganders all over the state step up and come together to slow the spread of COVID-19 and save lives,” Whitmer said in s statement. “Now, Michigan’s task is to unleash the potential of our people, to drive innovation and investment, and create tens of thousands of jobs and economic prosperity for all. Together, we can stay laser-focused on growing the economy and getting Michiganders back to work. Let’s hit the gas.”

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Michigan Business Leaders Expect Robust Economic Recovery, Return to Partial In-Person Work

Man in business suit walking on crosswalk in city

Michigan’s business leaders anticipate robust growth in the state’s economy within the next year.

They also plan a return to in-person office work in the 3rd and 4th quarters of 2021, according to a quarterly economic survey completed by Business Leaders for Michigan.

Approximately 92% of survey respondents say the state’s economy will likely remain strong and growing during the next six to 12 months.

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Minnesota to End Statewide Mask Mandate Friday

Gov. Tim Walz on Thursday announced the end of Minnesota’s statewide mask requirement starting Friday, aligning Minnesota with new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance on face coverings.

“So, those peacetime emergencies are done and the business mitigations are coming to an end. I want to be clear it’s not the end of the pandemic, but it is the end of the pandemic for a  lot of vaccinated folks,” he told reporters.

Minnesotans who aren’t fully vaccinated are strongly recommended to wear face coverings indoors.

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Controversy Surrounds Whitmer’s Secret Florida Flight

Gov. Whitmer

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is once again under fire for a Florida trip she took months ago.

The trip was partially paid for by a 501(c)4 group, which critics say presents legal questions.

Whitmer used funds from an inauguration-related nonprofit to pay for a $27,521 trip to Florida to visit her ailing father in March, MIRS News reported. “She continued to carry out her duties as governor while she assisted her father [in Florida] with household duties like cooking and cleaning,” JoAnne Huls, the governor’s chief of staff, wrote in a memo. “The governor’s flight was not a gift, not paid for at taxpayer expense, and was done in compliance with the law.”

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