Union Friendly GOP Legislator Spurned by Big Labor

Rep. Zorn target of union attacks after voting for more charter schools

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State Representative Dale Zorn has often been a Republican ally to public sector unions by trying to thwart some of his own caucus' reform efforts.

For example, Rep. Zorn voted against the emergency manager bill that would give appointed managers the tools to bring financial stability back to communities and school districts — including the ability to tear up unsustainable union contracts.

He voted against giving school district's more flexibility to shop for less expensive insurance than the Michigan Education Association-backed MESSA health care plan. 

He voted against preventing union stewards from being paid to do union business on school time.

He voted against stopping graduate student research assistants from being unionized. Rep. Zorn also voted against Gov. Rick Snyder's budget proposal for K-12 education that tied funding to performance goals.

Yet, when Rep. Zorn cast the deciding vote in May in favor of Senate Bill 619, which lifted some restrictions on enrollment in cyber charter schools, it infuriated the teacher unions and their allies.

Fran Brennan, the state director of Working America, an affiliate organization of the AFL-CIO union, has targeted Rep. Zorn for his vote, saying he backed out on a promise to vote against the cyber charter school bill. Brennan told MIRS that her organizers are contacting Rep. Zorn’s constituents. Brennan didn't return a message left on her cell phone.

Rep. Zorn’s office didn't respond to requests for comment.

Stephenie Jacobson, leader of the Cheboygan Tea Party, said Rep. Zorn’s voting record sounds like it is opposed to the tea party concerns. She said public sector unions "certainly found an ally, especially on the Republican side."

"I would say he's definitely sympathetic to the unions," Jacobson said. " I definitely hope he is being primaried."

Jack McHugh, legislative analyst for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, said there was a lesson lawmakers could learn from the unions' reaction to Rep. Zorn straying from their agenda.

"Lawmakers who think they can 'buy protection' from greedy school and government employee unions eventually discover the protection ends the minute they put taxpayers first," McHugh said. "Or in this case, put interests of students and parents ahead of the public school establishment."

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See also:

House Votes To Raise Cyber School Cap