News Story

Union-Supported Ballot Proposal Targets Right-to-Work, Recent Reforms

UAW-backed constitutional amendment would prevent future workplace choice

It was billed as proposal to prevent Michigan from becoming a right-to-work state. Instead, it would put mandatory collective bargaining into the state constitution and usurp power away from elected officials.

On March 2, United Auto Workers President Bob King announced that a coalition of unions would push for an amendment to the Michigan Constitution that would prohibit right-to-work legislation.

Right-to-work prohibits labor contracts that require non-union employees to pay union dues. Currently, employees in Michigan who work under union-negotiated contracts have to pay union dues even if they don't belong to the union.

King said the unions promoting the anti-right-to-work proposal would attempt to gather 500,000 signatures — about twice as many needed — to put the proposal on Michigan's November election ballot.

However, when the ballot proposal was unveiled Tuesday, it was clearly more than just a measure designed to prevent Michigan from adopting a right-to-work law.

It appears that the proposal would lock collective bargaining into the state constitution even for public sector employees. It would also undo many of the provisions enacted over the past year to curb collective bargaining excesses and union advantages at the bargaining table.

Graduate Student Research Assistants at universities would be considered employees and allowed to be unionized under the proposal. Michigan's enhanced emergency manager legislation (P.A. 4), which was designed to force local governments to rein in overspending, would be quashed as well as numerous other provisions.

In addition to ending already enacted measures, the proposal would pre-empt enactment of right-to-work and other measures the Republican-controlled legislature was preparing to tackle.

“This targets just about everything they (the unions) don't like,” said Charles Owens, state director for the National Federation of Independent Business in Michigan. “They want to undo the results of the [2010] election. But we have a new poll showing that 57 percent of Michigan voters support right-to-work.”

What about the fact that the union ballot proposal doesn't even mention right-to-work?

“They can do whatever tricks they want,” Owens said. “We're going to be talking about this in reference to right-to-work. They know they don't have the hearts and minds of the voters. That's why they're being so cute about it.”

Patrick Wright, senior legal analyst for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, said the proposal targets Michigan taxpayers' pocketbooks.

“This would allow the machinery of government to be used to finance unions,” Wright said. “It looks like the idea behind this is to give unions a perpetual funding source. It would cost Michigan taxpayers billions of dollars annually.”

One of the groups in the coalition promoting the ballot proposal is called “Protect Our Jobs.” Its website describes the reasons behind the proposal as follows:

For more than a year, Lansing politicians and corporate special interests have made one attack after another on Michigan workers: cutting middle-class families’ wages, health care benefits, retirement security and safety protections.

They’re not done yet — there are more than 80 bills waiting for a vote in the state Legislature that would strip basic protections from working people.

These political attacks on basic collective bargaining rights have done nothing to put Michiganders back to work. Instead, all they’ve done is hurt middle-class families, small businesses and local communities. Enough is enough.

Click here to view the full proposal.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.