News Story

Community College Labor Studies Class Features Nearly All Union Perspective

Course turned into lecture series lacks balance

A Muskegon Community College instructor who turned his labor studies course into a series of public lectures has stacked the lectures with pro-union speakers.

MCC Sociologist Nicholas Budimir said in a story on MLive that he wanted a balanced debate for a series of lectures open to the public, but seven of the nine "special guests" identified for the lectures work directly for unions. In the MLive story, he was quoted as saying: "There's virtually no democracy in workplaces. It's employer dictatorships."

The two speakers without direct union ties are Andy Fink, chairman of the Muskegon County Republican Party, and Michael Johnston, a labor historian.

Budimir's class, which now is open to the public as a lecture series, has 15 installments and started Aug. 28. It runs until Dec. 11. 

In an email response to a request for comment about whether other, more diverse voices were invited to speak, Budimir said he was open to suggestions about who he could contact, but he did not answer whether he reached out to speakers who were not affiliated with labor unions. 

The speakers with union affiliations are: Brent Gillette, president of the West Michigan Labor Council, AFL-CIO; Gerald Kariem, regional UAW director; Stan Burnell, Michigan Education Association collective bargaining consultant; David Hecker, president of the American Federation of Teachers-Michigan; Jim Chase, Teamsters Local 406 business agent; Marian Novak, organizer, Teamsters Joint Council 43; and Steve Cook, president of the MEA.

Fink said he is an adjunct teacher in the department of social science at Muskegon Community College, which is the same department as Budimir.

"It does not seem balanced to me," Fink said of the lineup of speakers. "Let's face it, throughout the country, people teach their perspectives on issues. When I teach American government, all the students know I'm a Libertarian. Instructors have a bias."

Fink described Budimir as "an excellent teacher."

"While I believe this program is not balanced, he is not distorting the facts," Fink said.

However, at least one invited speaker has a history of distorting facts, as does the union he heads.

Cook and the MEA have made repeated misrepresentations about public school funding to statewide media.

Another invited speaker, the AFT's Hecker, presented an award to the Taylor School District teachers' union for "outstanding organizing" after it organize a sickout of teachers that caused the district to cancel classes while teachers protested the right-to-work law in Lansing.

Eric Rothoff, a student at Muskegon Community College who is a Republican, said any student or student organization could organize their own lectures on campus and give the opposing viewpoint if they wanted to.

"I think it (the lecture series) is annoying and stupid, but conservatives could do the same thing there if they wanted to," Rothoff said. "The college has been very open for that."

F. Vincent Vernuccio, director of labor policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, said he was not invited to be on a panel.

“The professor should have presented a more fair and balance approach so his students would get a full grasp of the issues involved with labor and workers today in America," Vernuccio said.


See also:

Wayne State's 'Wholly Owned Subsidiary' of Big Labor