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We Have Lost a Great Trade Unionist:  John McDonald Passes Away

John McDonald, the 43-year president of the Henry Ford Community College Federation of Teachers, passed away at the age of 75 on Thursday, December 30, 2021.  John had been battling liver disease.

It is impossible to do justice to John in just a few paragraphs.  With his leadership, Local 1650 has 100% membership.  The contracts he and the local’s team bargained set the standard for others.  And he was a true trade unionist. When the adjuncts at HFCC organized and the College administration started an anti-union campaign, John made sure it was stopped. When the adjuncts won their election and the Adjunct Faculty Organization went to the bargaining table, John offered that his local would forfeit some of their pay increase so the adjuncts could get a fair raise.  

John understood the importance of community before many others.  He gave considerable time and local resources to supporting various components of Dearborn life, developing strong relationships throughout the diverse community.  John led the millage campaigns for the College and was extremely active in Board elections. He understood as well as anyone that political action is essential if a union is going to do all it can to best represent bargaining unit members.

John and I celebrating with former GEO leader and AFT Michigan staffer Alyssa Picard when the “acting” was taken off her title as Director of the AFT’s Higher Education Department

There has been no stronger supporter of AFT Michigan than John.  By far the most senior member of our Administrative Board, John and the  local were always there when called upon.  Of course, one had to deal with some good natured ribbing when asking John for a favor, but he always delivered.  And long before higher education became half of the state federation’s membership, John made sure that we kept higher ed issues on our radar.  When we organized in higher education we often involved John, and the unorganized were always impressed by the local’s contract and activism.

He served on the national AFT’s Executive Council for the past nine years and was a long time member of the AFT’s Higher Education Program and Policy Council.

So much more can be said.  We have lost a great trade unionist and a dear friend.   Thank you John for all you have done for so many. 

If you’d like to honor John’s memory, you can donate to the Adray Theater Renovation Fund, which was set up in honor of his birthday earlier this year:

Two Longtime AFT Michigan Members Passed Away

Two other longtime members passed away in December:

Sharon Rice, former president of Van Dyke Professional Personnel. Donations are welcomed to The VDPS Foundation of Excellence and Operation Gratitude.
Theresa Farneti-Gerstler, Lamphere Federation of Teachers. Donations to the Theresa Farneti Memorial Scholarship Fund can be mailed or dropped off to Lamphere Schools, ATTN: Jackie Owens, 31201 Dorchester Ave., Madison Heights, MI 48071. Checks need to be made payable to Lamphere Schools with a notation in the memo area: “For the Theresa Farneti Memorial Scholarship Fund.” 

Fellowships for Future Educators

Rob Fowler, CEO of the Small Business Association of Michigan, and I work together within the Launch Michigan coalition and wrote an op-ed focused on one of a number of strategies needed to address the teacher shortage. The Michigan Future Educator Fellowship proposes using American Rescue Plan dollars to cover the cost of tuition and provide scholarships during student teaching in exchange for five years working in a Michigan classroom following certification.

Biden NLRB Appointees Support Workers’ Right to Organize

With a majority of the National Labor Relations Board now composed of President Biden appointees, the Board reversed a NLRB regional director’s decision that would inhibit organizing and reached a settlement with Amazon resulting from the company violating federal law during a recent organizing drive.

The National Labor Relations Board voted 3-2 to review the June ruling of an NLRB regional director that prevented a vote of 87 tool and die technicians at Nissan’s Smyrna plant, outside Nashville, TN. The NLRB’s order states that the  acting regional director’s decision “raises substantial issues warranting review.”

The three NLRB members voting to review the decision preventing workers from organizing  were appointed by President Biden.  The two no votes were appointed by former President Trump.

Also,  Amazon has reached a settlement with the NLRB to allow its employees to freely organize — and without retaliation.  This is a settlement of charges filed by the Retail, Wholesale, Department Store Union on behalf of Amazon Alabama workers who recently lost a union election during which the company violated federal law.

NPR reports that “according to the settlement, the online behemoth Amazon said it would reach out to its warehouse workers — former and current — via email who were on the job anytime from March 22 to now to notify them of their organizing rights. The settlement outlines that Amazon workers, which number 750,000 in the U.S., have more room to organize within the buildings. For example, Amazon pledged it will not threaten workers with discipline or call the police when they are engaging in union activity in exterior non-work areas during non-work time.

According to the terms of the settlement, the labor board will be able to more easily sue Amazon— without going through a laborious process of administrative hearings — if it found that the online company reneged on its agreement.

Elections matter!

Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission Sets New Electoral Maps

The nonpartisan commission created by Michigan voters has approved new districts for the decade ahead. Most observers agree that the new districts will create many more competitive seats and result in legislative breakdowns that more closely reflect the statewide popular vote. For the past several decades, Michigan’s districts have been drawn by the Republican-controlled legislature in ways that “packed” Democratic voters into a handful of districts. This created a structural advantage for Republicans and meant that, even in years when Democrats won statewide races by large majorities, the state house and senate remained controlled by Republicans.

While there will undoubtedly be many lawsuits filed challenging these maps, it seems quite likely that the new districts will present the best chance to elect pro-public education candidates across the state that we’ve seen in decades. Over the years, I’ve heard from many members frustrated that it seemed their vote didn’t matter because they lived in districts tilted overwhelmingly to one party or the other. This will be your chance. Get ready to get out there and volunteer, talk to your neighbors, and raise PAC dollars.

Contribute to the AFT Michigan PAC Today

AFT Michigan fights for our members, students and communities all year round and we need your help. Can you donate $1 a week to aid us in this fight? Please visit the AFT Michigan website and set up a recurring gift to make a big difference in protecting public education and building a better Michigan future! 

Join AFT Michigan for an AFT Student Debt Clinic Webinar on Thursday, Jan. 6 – 6:30-8:00pm! 

More than 45 million people have student debt and many of them are struggling with this burden. The AFT Student Debt Clinic program provides information about free federal programs that may help reduce the burden of this debt, while also highlighting the role that our union can play in addressing problems both within the workplace and in our communities. Additionally, the Student Debt Clinics provide crucial information and resources to help our members take advantage of the temporary expansion of the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness program before the expansion period ends on 10/31/22.

To register please visit and select “MICHIGAN: AFT-Michigan *WEBINAR* 6:30 pm 01/06/2022” in the dropdown.  Select your local name or # (You can type in parts of it and it will auto-fill), fill in the brief questionnaire, and hit “submit.”

Summer and Assistance with Public Service Loan Forgiveness 

AFT is working to keep members informed about the recent changes to Public Service Loan Forgiveness and how to use Summer to get help to borrowers. Summer is a trusted online platform that can help you simplify and navigate your student loan debt.

Using Summer’s online student loan management platform, AFT members who enroll in this free member benefit can:

  • Enroll in income-driven repayment plans and manage annual income recertifications; 
  • Complete the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Employment Certification Form and manage the PSLF certification and application process; 
  • Find other options for loan forgiveness, and get assistance in applying for them; and 
  • Talk through options with Summer’s borrower success team so they can understand how to best maximize their loan repayment and forgiveness options. 

You can start using Summer by creating and logging in to your AFT Member Benefits account ( 

Join an AFT Michigan Working Group

The AFT Michigan Administrative Board has created five working groups to help push forward our work in priority areas that have emerged from, and cut across, our Constituency Committees, and we are looking for members to add your expertise and passion to the groups (listed below, with target constituencies we will seek to involve):

  • Dismantling the School-to-Prison Pipeline (All Constituencies)
  • Increasing the Number of Black Educators in Michigan (All Constituencies)
  • Support Staff-to-Teacher Pathways (PreK-12 Support Staff, Teachers, Special Ed/ISD)
  • Converting Part-time to Full-time Faculty (NonTenure-Track Faculty, Tenure-Track Faculty)
  • New Deal for Higher Ed: Fighting Back Against Austerity Budgeting (Grads, NonTenure-Track Faculty, Tenure-Track Faculty & Academic Staff)

Each group will begin with an Assessment Phase before moving toward recommending action steps to the AFT Michigan Administrative Board. Time commitments are flexible and will vary depending on the project and timeline. See descriptions of each group’s scope of work and interest sign up forms at

Upcoming Union-Building Workshops

Treasurer Tuesday: Convention ComplianceTuesday, January 18, 20227:00 PM8:30 PM
Electoral Politics 101Wednesday, January 19, 20225:00 PM6:30 PM

Professional Development 

AFT Michigan Professional Development Workshop 

Social Emotional Learning and the Brain

January 8, 2022, 8:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

This workshop is informative, providing insight on the relationship of the brain to one’s emotions. Attendees will be introduced  to research-based strategies to enhance student growth, Social Emotional Learning (SEL), and take a closer look at the role Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) has in the classroom.

Click Here to Register 

Stress Solutions for Educators Series

This experiential workshop series is designed to give you both a better understanding of the science of stress and its impact on your body and real tools that you can use right now to manage stress, avoid feeling overwhelmed and create resiliency-building daily habits. You’ll leave this series with the foundations of a daily meditation practice and learn the building-block basics of mindfulness-based stress reduction.

Come ready to experience some immediate stress relief through guided relaxation, mini meditations and breathing exercises to help you reset your attention, refill your cup and relax at the end of a busy day.

  • Exploring Mindfulness, Part 1 | Tuesday, Jan. 11, at 6 p.m. EST | Register
    In this session, you’ll learn why mindfulness is a powerful tool for managing stress; three simple mindfulness meditation techniques; and how to create a mindfulness meditation practice in your everyday life, including how to sit for meditation, how to work with your thoughts to create space in your mind, and relaxing breathing techniques.
  • Mindfully Manage Stress, Part 2 | Tuesday, Jan. 25, at 6 p.m. EST | Register
    In this session, you’ll learn how the nervous system works under stress, how to recognize the signs and symptoms of stress in your body and how to recognize your own unique stress triggers to better manage stress.
  • Transforming Stress Reactivity into Mindful Response, Part 3 | Tuesday, Feb. 8, at 6 p.m. EST | Register
    In this session, you’ll learn how to work with your thoughts and storylines that keep us stuck in our habitual stress reactions; how to intentionally shift our stress habits and reactions and replace them with mindful, thoughtful responses instead; and how to practice one key resiliency-building habit that will help you better manage your stress on the day to day.

In solidarity,

David Hecker


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