The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, February 17, 2017

News Briefs

By The Building Tradesman

Don't let the door hit you, Betsy

The Trump Administration's gain is Michigan's loss - err gain, too.

Betsy Devos, the Grand Rapids billionaire who is President Trump's pick for Education Secretary, was approved in the Senate on Feb. 7 by the narrowest of margins. As she takes over her new position guiding the U.S. Department of Education in our nation's capitol - she will not be in a position to guide money and influence to anti-labor candidates and causes in our state capitol.

“If I’m confirmed I will not be involved or engaged in political contributions and my husband will not be either,” DeVos told the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions during her confirmation hearing last month. Which is music to the ears of organized labor. 

That's because Betsy, her husband Dick and their family in 2012 financially backed the effort to institute the state's right-to-work law. Citing the Lansing-based Michigan Campaign Finance Network, The Detroit News reported that Betsy, Dick and seven other members of the extended Devos family, who overwhelmingly support conservative candidates and causes, has written checks for $82 million in political spending since 1999.

The Devos family also financially backstopped two separate, failed petition drives in 2015 and 2016 intended to overturn Michigan's Prevailing Wage Act.

While other Devos family members can contribute to political causes, at least part of the anti-labor financial  spigot will dry up. “We like our partnerships with people who have like-minded values and we’ve had them for a long time,” said former Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, to The News. “It’s not going to have a monstrous impact, but at the same time, you’re going to have to go out and find other people now.”

Jobless agency settles, but no relief for victims

LANSING – The Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) on Feb. 2 settled a federal civil case alleging the agency wrongfully accused unemployed workers of fraud. While the agency did not admit to wrongdoing, it did commit to make a number of policy changes intended to address the upheaval of lives it has caused wrongfully accused benefits claimants.

The UIA has acknowledged that an internal review of jobless insurance fraud turned up by its computer system falsely accused nearly 21,000 workers of fraud – amounting to 93 percent of the cases reviewed during a 22-month period from October 2012 to August 2015.

The settlement requires the agency to provide notice of fraud allegations, an explanation of the accusation and evidence, along with the opportunities for rebuttal and appeal.  The agency cannot determine fraud occurred just because the recipient didn’t respond to the agency’s notice.

The lives of thousands of vulnerable workers who have collected jobless benefits have been devastated by the state, which imposes among the highest levels of penalties for UI fraud in the nation. Few of those affected have so far received any financial justice from the state, despite a court injunction in January stopping the computerized determinations of fraud.