UAW Video Shows Political Influence

Proposal 2 on Michigan’s Nov. 6 general election ballot, once called by its union-funders the “Protect Our Jobs Amendment,” would enshrine collective bargaining privileges for government employees into the state constitution, effectively giving provisions of government labor contracts primacy over laws passed by the people’s duly elected representatives in Lansing and signed by the governor.

This radical proposal and a campaign ad promoting it (called “Rescue”) calls to mind a video shot by the Saginaw-based UAW Local 699 and shown at a December 1999 “worker-to-worker” event urging members to vote for union-backed candidates.

In this video the speaker describes the clout unions have with their preferred candidates, and the benefits accruing to members if those candidates are elected:

Earlier this week I ran into Judge [Lynda] Heathscott and you know she quickly came up and shook my hand and was talking to me and all of that other good stuff and started talking about Mark Gaffney out of Teamsters being elected president of the AFL-CIO and basically said “I was elected judge because of the labor movement, period.”

When we send letters to Judge Heathscott because we have people that are going to go in front of her, for whatever reason, she always comes down in a more favorable position for us. Now she might give them a long probation; she might give them a stiff fine, most generally they don’t wind up doing jail time and some other things because that letter came from the UAW and she knows who got her elected.

Ms. Heathscott was a Saginaw County circuit court judge who left the bench in 2008 to become a “referee” in the Saginaw Friend of the Court office.

Needless to say, such a statement raises serious question regarding the goals and outcomes of union political activity of the sort the UAW has for decades relentlessly pursued. Maybe the comments made on the tape amounted to simple bravado on the part of the speaker, but maybe they did not. Maybe the UAW expects special treatment under the law for its members.

In 2008, another UAW-supported initiative raised more questions. This sweeping measure, called “Reform Michigan Government Now,” was designed to remake the state constitution. This time, the game was given away by a PowerPoint presentation discovered by the Mackinac Center on a UAW website, the subtitle of which was, “Changing the rules of politics in Michigan to help Democrats.”

Courts ultimately ruled that the measure violated state rules and could not appear on the ballot. However, this year’s Proposal 2 will be on the ballot, and if anything it’s even more radical. Among other things it would repeal a law that prohibits unions from taking money from a government employee’s paycheck to pay for political contributions unless the union first obtains the worker’s written permission (“paycheck protection”).

While Proposal 2 primarily affects law overseeing government unions, it would also prohibit the legislature from ever passing a right-to-work law that bans private-sector employers from making union membership or fee payments a condition of employment.

On the public-sector side, according to one estimate, some 170 state laws regulating government employees and unions would be invalidated in part or in whole.

The UAW video posted above just hints at the degree of power labor unions have and try to operate amongst the political class for institutional gain. Should Proposal 2 pass, union bosses like the one featured above would only fortify their positions and at great cost to taxpayers across the Great Lake State.

Proposal 2 would surely accomplish the desire of government union bosses to protect their jobs.

But given the extremely negative message it sends to prospective employers, it could terminate Michigan’s nascent economic recovery, generating a very different outcome for the rest of our jobs

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.