Michigan Voters Support Labor Reforms

For Immediate Release, August 28, 2002

MIDLAND—Substantial majorities of Michigan citizens favor legislation that would require public employee unions to open their financial records to members, and that would require all unions to seek each member’s approval before using their dues for political activities. These findings are the result of an EPIC/MRA survey commissioned by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

When asked whether they would favor legislation currently before the Michigan House of Representatives requiring annual financial reports from government employee unions, 73 percent of those polled indicated they would do so, with 47 percent saying they would “strongly favor” such a bill. Of those who identified themselves as union members, 72 percent expressed their support for union financial disclosure. Only 15 percent of those questioned expressed opposition to the financial disclosure law, which was introduced by state Rep. Brian Palmer, R-Romeo, and is currently being considered by the House Committee on Employment Relations, Training, and Safety.

“Corporate officials aren’t the only ones who have taken advantage of their positions of power,” said Mackinac Center Director of Labor Policy Robert Hunter. “The people of this state have seen union officials take advantage of the privileges they are granted under state and federal labor law. They are simply demanding that big labor be accountable to its members to the same degree that corporations are accountable to their stockholders. And that requires big changes in how unions do business,” Hunter said.

The survey also showed a clear majority in favor of legislation that would require unions to obtain authorization from individual union members before using those members’ dues money for purposes other than bargaining or implementing an existing collective bargaining agreement. Commonly referred to as “paycheck protection,” such a law, if implemented, would prevent union dues money from being spent on political activities or lobbying without the approval of workers. Sixty-three percent of those polled expressed support for such a law, a version of which was introduced by state Rep. Robert Gosselin, R-Troy, and is currently pending before the Michigan House Employment Relations Committee. Twenty-five percent were opposed. The number of union members favoring paycheck protection fell just short of a majority, at 49 percent.

The poll, conducted Aug. 18-21, queried 600 Michigan citizens who had voted in either 1998 or 2000, and who intended to vote in the upcoming gubernatorial election. The margin of error is 4.0 percent.

These results come on the heels of a June survey that showed majority support for a Michigan right-to-work law. A Research 2000 poll of likely Michigan voters indicated that 62 percent would favor such a law, which would prohibit mandatory union membership or mandatory financial support of a union as a condition of employment. Only 22 percent of those polled were opposed to this idea. The poll had a 4.8 percent error margin.

“Currently, labor laws allow unions to collect membership dues from workers covered by a collective bargaining agreement, regardless of whether or not they support the union, and with precious few checks and balances to assure that union money and power is actually used to further the interests of workers,” Hunter explained. “These polls clearly indicate tremendous support in the state of Michigan for labor reform. They show that Michigan voters are taking a long hard look at union abuses of workers in this state, and they are ready to support reasonable reforms to prevent the exploitation of workers.”

For more information on House Bill 4252 (paycheck protection) and House Bill 6226 (financial disclosure) and other bills before the Michigan Legislature, see MichiganVotes.org.