In a letter sent to any member who opts to drop out of his union via Michigan's right-to-work law, Teamsters Local 214 President Joseph Valenti claims that employers are faking claims of deficits so they don’t have to negotiate in good faith.
The letter states: “Right to Work laws are eliminating your right to be represented; these laws are attacking your pension benefits, your healthcare benefits, and employers are falsifying their claims of financial deficits in order to avoid bargaining in good faith. Employer budgets are prepared by the employer and they do not accurately reflect the true financial conditions that exist.”
Valenti goes on to say the union demands independent audits of employers’ budgets during negotiations.
Valenti did not return a request for comment about which employers were falsifying their budgets.
Matt Bach, director of media relations at the Michigan Municipal League, said his organization couldn’t prove or disprove Valenti’s claim because it doesn’t track that information.
“That being said, the League firmly believes that all League member communities follow generally accepted accounting principles and would never misrepresent the financial circumstances,” he said. “It is fact that the state of Michigan since 2003 has diverted from Michigan communities $6.2 billion in statutory revenue sharing to fill its own budget shortfalls. This revenue sharing diversion, coupled with declining property taxes and other financial constraints, have left a record number of Michigan communities facing financial emergencies.”
Cities do receive more money than just statutory revenue sharing and property tax collection has gone up.
F. Vincent Vernuccio, director of labor policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, disputed Valenti’s assertions about right-to-work eliminating workers’ rights to be represented.
“Mr. Valenti’s nose must be growing,” Vernuccio said. “All right-to-work does is take away his ability to get workers fired for not paying him. It does not affect representation in any other way. Bargaining for pension and health care benefits as well as everything else is the same with or without right-to-work. The only thing that cannot be verified incorrect is the Teamsters’ president’s claim that employers are falsifying financial claims. However, given the amount of false assertions he was able to shoehorn into one sentence, that also seems unlikely. Of course, if Mr. Valenti can verify this claim, he should do so.”