A news service for the people of Michigan from the Mackinac Center for Public Policy

If the constitutional ballot initiative Proposal 2 was merely about establishing the "right" to collectively bargain, it would stop after the first section.

That section reads, “The people shall have the right to organize … and to bargain collectively with a public or private employer through an exclusive representative of the employees’ choosing, to the fullest extent not preempted by the laws of the United States.”

Or, as it will say on the ballot: “Grant public and private employees the constitutional right to organize and bargain collectively through labor unions.”

If that was all, the vote in November would be about whether or not public employees should continue being allowed to bargain with state government. But it goes on.

There are five more sections. One of those sections says, "No existing or future law of the state or its political subdivisions shall abridge, impair or limit" unions' ability to "negotiate in good faith regarding wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment. … " Furthermore, “The legislature’s exercise of its power to enact laws relative to the hours and conditions of employment shall not abridge, impair or limit the right to collectively bargain for wages, hours and other terms and conditions of employment that exceed minimum levels established by the legislature.”

Or, as it will say on the ballot: “Override state laws that regulate hours and conditions of employment to the extent that those laws conflict with collective bargaining agreements.”

In short, any laws past, present or future that conflict with a collective bargaining agreement would be overridden and unenforceable.

For awhile, this was not contradicted by the unions. Indeed, in the beginning the public employee unions bragged that their constitutional amendment would override state laws — that is what the MEA lawyers said and that is how it was sold to the membership.

The lawyer for Proposal 2, Andrew Nickelhoff, said, "We can guess at how 'Protect Our Jobs' might affect existing legislation and we could spend all day doing that, but in the end, it's just going to have to be decided (in the courts) on a case-by-case basis." Indeed, an internal memo from the Michigan Education Association listed many of the laws that would be repealed “effective immediately” with the passage of Proposal 2, including laws dealing with automatic step increases during expired contracts, a law requiring public employees to pay more for their health care, “last in, first out” legislation, teacher tenure reform, reinstating MESSA, contracting services and more.

But once the word got out and the idea that a group of union bosses were hijacking the constitution for pet policy disagreements, they changed their tone insisting that Proposal 2 is simply about basic rights to collectively bargain (see here, here and here).

The amendment would nullify hundreds of laws protecting children and taxpayers, ensure more school failings like Highland Park and Detroit, encourage more emergency situations like that in Allen Park and prevent workers from ever having the freedom to choose whether or not to join or financially support a union. It would be a huge boon to the law profession as almost every CBA provision conflicting with state law could wind up in the courts to determine if it deals with “conditions of employment.”

Proposal 2 is local government and union officials wanting more and more money from state taxpayers with less oversight. Changing the story doesn’t change the facts.

Mackinac Center for Public Policy Director of Education Policy Audrey Spalding describes her latest study on right-to-work law violations in public school contracts and suggests why districts and unions are ignoring the law.


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