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September 20, 2010 - Image 4

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2010-09-20

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4A - Monday, September 20, 2010

Edited and managed by students at
the University of Michigan since 1890.
420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
Obara hasplged to And unicorns have been
Well, BP has denied have a working peace spotted in New Zealand, That one was a joke.
that thir wiely-criticized ageeeetweenIrel spedighappines
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Unsigned editorials reflect the official position of the Daily's editorial board. All other signed articles
and illustrations represent solely the views of their authors.
Bingvs. Detroi t
Mayor needs to outline redevelopment plans
There was a time when Detroit was Michigan's industrial
powerhouse. The home of the automotive industry that
sustained the state for decades, Detroit seemed to be invin-
cible. That is no longer the case. The city needs a new direction -
and Mayor Dave Bing has a plan to bring Detroit hope. Recently,
Bing's plan to redevelop Detroit, The Detroit Works Program, has
spurred criticism from many residents. Despite the opposition,
this initiative would be beneficial for the city. Though their con-
cerns are legitimate, residents need to realize the plan's potential
to reinvent the city. At the same time, Bing owes it to his city to
create a concrete and practical plan for urban redevelopment.

A need for unionization

n last Tuesday's Daily, Rachel Van
Gilder, editorial page editor and
fellow columnist, raised my blood
pressure when she
argued that unions
are unnecessary
and that Michigan
should become a
right-to-work state'
(An unholy union
policy, 09/14/2010).
I'll be blunt:
She's wrong. Not
only does she base PATRICK
her arguments on
faulty logic, but O'MAHEN
she fails to support
many of her conten-
tions with evidence.
Start with her naive assertion that
unions aren't necessary because we
now have state and federal laws that
set minimum wages and workplace
safety standards that protect workers.
One of the major reasons why we have
all those laws and standards is because
unions have lobbied hard for them
against determined employer opposi-
tion. And union pressure helps federal
inspectors do their jobs by informing
workers of their rights and giving them
legal backing if they get fired for trying
to exercise them.
Then Van Gilder claims - without a
shred of evidence - that we don't need
unions because steelworkers don't
work 14-hour days for no pay in unsafe
conditions any more. That's true in
some job classes, but farm workers,
coal miners and others still labor in
very dangerous conditions.
And plenty of more mundane
employers abuse their workers. Local-
ly, the Michigan Restaurant Opportu-
nities Center has detailed numerous
problems in local eateries, includ-
ing violation of minimum wage laws,
denial of overtime pay and health and
safety violations.
Finally Van Gilder failed to under-
stand that basic economics demon-
strates that instead of giving workers
more flexibility, right-to-work laws

isolate worker's and reduce their bar-
gaining power.
Most workers are what economists
would call price-takers - that is, they
have very little negotiating power.
The only people with individual
leverage in negotiations tend to be at
the top of the pyramid - CEOs and
highly skilled professionals. A Uni-
versity example is newly minted Pro-
vost Philip Hanlon, who wrangled a
28-percent raise despite state aid cuts
and a massive recession. As a GSI, I
don't have that sort of power, nor do
lecturers, custodians, bus drivers,
restaurant servers or wait staff.
The analogy to alabor-management
relationship is that of a consumer and
a merchant. When I go to the grocery
store, I don't haggle with the produce
manager over the price of an orange. I
either buyit at$1.99 apound or I don't.
If we don't like our job, we can always
try toget another one - the equivalent
of going to another store. But search-
ing for a job costs time and money, like
searching for cheaper oranges wastes
an afternoon.
Notice how union membership
does not affect the ability to search for
another job, undercutting Van Gilder's
contention that unionization hurts
worker's individual ability to negoti-
ate. In fact, many union contracts help
workers acquire more skills and better
position themselves in the job market
by setting up free training courses or
allowing for other development. An
example is the Lecturers' Employee
Organization contract, which man-
dates that the University set aside
grants to help lecturers implement
teaching innovations.
Of course, I think what Van Gilder
specifically objects to is being forced
to join a union when she is on the job,
which she calls "bizarre." But she
fails to understand the dynamics of
free-rider problems.
Right-to-work laws undermine
workers by making union benefits
apply to all workers, but don't make
workers join the union. The set-up

encourages some workers to free ride
on the organizing and dues of others
without sanction. As a result, right-
to-work greatly weakens the union's
resources that fund its ability to bar-
gain, protect workers and lobby for
worker-friendly laws. As a result all
workers lose out.
doesn't hurt *
individual choice.
I've been pretty hard on Van Gilder
in this column, so I'll close by sympa-
thizing with her implicit contentions
that suggest unions might not always
recognize her own views. The way to
solve that problem is not to abandon
your union (an action which hurts you
and your fellow workers), but to get
involved with it. Make your union rep-
resentyou - and ifthatmeans you want
to settle for a 3-percent raise instead of
striking for a 5-percent raise, there's
nothing wrong withcthat.
I know dozens of activists (includ-
ing myself) who have gotten involved
in our union, the Graduate Employees'
Organization, because we were-upset 0
with some of the union's stances at
the bargaining table. Because we
got involved, the union is both more
pragmatic in its actions and takes into
account the needs of groups - like
parents and disabled workers, who
often fall through the cracks in tradi-
tional labor negotiations.
Van Gilder and I agree that unions
should be democratic and broadly rep-
resentative of the wishes of their mem-
bers, but before she becomes a teacher,
she needs to do some homework on the
reality of right-to-work laws.
-Patrick O'Mahen can be
reached at pomahen@umich.edu.

On Sept.14, Bing held a community forum
at Detroit City Hall for citizens to discuss
redevelopment ideas for the city. Currently,
60,000 of Detroit's 387,000 lots are vacant,
according to a Sept. 15 Detroit Free Press
article. In his address, the mayor expressed
his belief that removing blighted properties
and centralizing the population closer to
downtown would create a safer, more suc-
cessful and more appealing city. Many resi-
dents aren't happy with Bing's plan - which
is still very much in the planning stages
- and voiced their views at the forum last
week. Bing has planned four more forums in
order to gather more community input.
While Bing's ambitious urban redevel-
opment plan is a large project for the frail
city to undertake, it's a good idea. The city's
economy has struggled for years. Economic
hardship has led to increased crime and an
unsustainable local budget. The city needs
a radical change to eradicate urban decay
and resurrect the economy. Demolish-
ing blighted properties would combat low
property values and open land for redevel-
opment and help balance the city's budget.
Yet, city residents' objections are valid.
Because many of these residents are liv-
ing in poverty, many simply don't have

the financial resources to move toward
the center of the city. And Bing hasn't
explained how he would make moving
realistic. Confusion about how the plan
would be implemented has led many to
believe that they are simply being forced
from their homes. In a Free Press article,
Detroit resident Denise Greer said, "Bing
just wants to take us out ... they are going
to take away our city."
For the plan to garner public support
and move forward, Bing needs to create a
plan that will make it economically viable
for low-income households to relocate to
more dense parts of the city. As mayor,
Bing has a responsibility to his citizens to
make their lives better. This implicit con-
tract with the people of Detroit means he
owes them a concrete description of how
his urban redevelopment plan will work -
and he needs to ensure that residents will
have a voice.
The plan to eliminate blight and create
new options appears to be a viable option
for the future of Detroit. Residents should
work with Bing in order to make the proj-
ect a success. But the burden is on Bing to
give residents a good reason to get on board
with the plan.
podium F

Renewed xenophobia

The Daily opinion blog wants you to weigh in. Will Butler wonders if Tea Party
candidates can win November elections - and if Dems realize that they're a threat.
Dear Attorney General

Dear Mr. Cox,
As a professor at the University of Michigan,
I am surprised that you condone the violent
harassment and abuse by one of your employees,
Andrew Shirvell, toward the president of our stu-
dent body, Chris Armstrong.
Armstrong has not, so far as I know, done any-
thingto offend your employee nor has he broken
any law. It is unfathomable to me that you could
tolerate this sort of behavior by anyone who
works in your office. It seems extraordinary for
a member of the Attorney General's staff to carry

out a lengthy and prolonged campaign of public
harassment against a private citizen on account
of that citizen's private life. Are we now to imag-
ine a scenario in which a student at the Univer-
sity of Michigan is obliged to go to court to seek a
restraining order against a member of the Attor-
ney General's staff?
I am frankly perplexed, and I would be
grateful for an explanation.
Dr. David M. Halperin
LSA professor

it's a common perception that
democracy protects and cel-
ebrates fundamental human
rights, freedoms
and diversity. But
over the past few
weeks, multiple
incidents have chal-
lenged these fun- "
damental notions.
Nine years after
the events of Sept.
11, 2001, it seems
Muslims resid- TOMMASO
log in democracies
across the world PAVONE
are facing renewed
xenophobia. Let me
shed light on a few
incidents that have taken place from
France to the United Kingdom to New
York City that should be of concern to
all of us.
On Sept. 14, the French Senate
voted 246 to 1 to pass legislation that
bans all forms of dress covering the
face - the burqa being the primary
target. Now, any woman found wear-
ing a burqa in public will face a choice
between a fine of 150 euros - $195 -
and a citizenship course. If it's deter-
mined that the woman was forced to
wear the veil, then the perpetrator
can be fined up to 30,000 euros and
face prison time. French President
Nicolas Sarkozy, who lobbied for
the legislation, and the 82 percent
of french citizens surveyed in a Pew
Global Attitudes Project poll who
support the ban seem to have finally
gotten their wish.
Simultaneouslyin Britain, an Irani-
an mother of two, Farah Ghaemi, was
in the process of packing her bags. In
August, the UK Border Agency pro-
vided Ghaemi with an ultimatum:
return to Iran or face deportation. She
refused to leave voluntarily because

Iranian police had recently raided
her house and found a copy of Salman
Rushdie's "The Satanic Verses," and
now she faced the possibility of death
by stoning for what an Iranian arrest
warrant termed, "propagating against
the sacred system of the Islamic
Republic of Iran." But the British con-
servative government, elected on a
distinctly anti-immigration platform,
had no intention of appearing soft on
immigration. Thankfully, on the very
day that Ghaemi's deportation was to
take place, activists won an injunc-
tion from a High Court judge blocking
her removal. So Ghaemi can breathe a
sigh of relief-- for now.
In New York City, a Muslim com-
munity center set to be built approxi-
mately two blocks from the ground
zero site has become the focal point of
a national controversy. Referred to as
the "World Trade Center mosque" by
political pundits and conservative poli-
ticians, many have called the project a
provocation. The fact that the center
was approved by the city's Landmarks
Preservation Commission on Aug.
3 and that both the neighborhood's
community board and Mayor Michael
Bloomberg support it didn't seem to
matter. In fact, the community board
received so many angry calls - many
from non-New York City residents -
that it was forced to request riot police
for its next meeting.
It's well-known that minorities
often feel the wrath of the majority
during times of challenge. Perhaps it's
the stresses of a weak global economy
combined with the remnants of the
Bush era's "us versus them" mental-
ity that has rendered xenophobic sen-
timents so enticing. But as students at
the University who pride ourselves as
being progressive, we have a duty to
critically engage these caustic issues.
What kind of precedent is set by a

national law targeting a specific reli-
gious dress? What does it say about
democracy when a government tries
to deport an individual to a repres-
sive regime in large part because of
domestic politics? And how do we
reconcile our devotion to freedom
and the Constitution with the public
outcry in favor of dictating where a
house of worship is to be built?
our notion of
I don't have clear, simple answers
to these questions. However, as an
immigrant first and a student of pub-
lic policy and political science second,
I do find these events extremely con-
cerning for the state of democracy.
And if we're to transform these chal-
lenges into opportunities to improve
society, we must fundamentally chal-
lenge our notions of democracy, free-
dom, human rights and equality and
ask ourselves if our actions are in
compliance with our ideals.
This process of self-questioning
should be intrinsic to our develop-
ment as democratic citizens. As
students, we shouldn't just absorb
knowledge like sponges - we should
strive to acquire the critical thinking
necessary to help make the world a
better place for everyone. And that
includes people who challenge us to
reconsider what we think democracy
is all about.
- Tommaso Pavone can be
reached at tpavone@umich.edu.

Readers are encouraged to submit letters to the editor. Letters should be fewer
than 300 words and must include the writer's full name and University affiliation. All
submissions become property of the Daily. We do not print anonymous letters.
Send letters to tothedaily@umich.edu.



fl Oi i-

Illustration by Madalyn Hochendoner
Aida Ali, Jordan Birnholtz, Adrianna Bojrab, Will Butler, Michelle DeWitt,
Ashley Griesshammer, Will Grundler, Jeremy Levy, Erika Mayer, Emily Orley, Harsha Panduranga,
Tommaso Pavone, Leah Potkin, Asa Smith, Brittany Smith, Laura Veith

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