MichiganVotes Bills

Michigan bill would conceal union political contributions

Under House Bill 4234, a union could double or triple its giving to preferred candidates

Following the recent repeal of right-to-work, the Michigan Legislature is reviewing a package of bills that grant unions robust political privileges.

Rep. Penelope Tsernoglou, D-East Lansing, introduced one such bill, House Bill 4234. The bill would amend the Michigan Campaign Finance Act to allow labor unions to collect political funds from consenting workers through a payroll deduction plan.

Payroll deduction plans deduct a certain amount from an employee’s paycheck to pay for union dues, agency fees, or other services. In this bill, the deduction could fund contributions to the union’s political action committee, or PAC, something that was previously prohibited.

Read it for yourself: House Bill 4234 of 2023

Advocates of House Bill 4234 argue that the bill allows workers to have a stronger voice in political affairs.

Earl Cox, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union, said during a House Elections Committee meeting in May that the bill enables “Our members who choose to contribute to the union’s political action efforts…[to] be able to do so in the least burdensome way.”

Related reading: Two Michigan House bills shower favors on unions

But the bill would also exempt unions from campaign finance laws that classify all contributions made to a candidate as coming from the same committee.

This means that unions could establish separate committees for local, state and national affiliates, thereby doubling or tripling the amount a union could donate to political candidates. Each committee could then increase its political expenditures, while also making total union political spending much more difficult to track down.

As the House Fiscal Agency analysis of the bill explains:

House Bill 4234 would amend the Michigan Campaign Finance Act to allow the use of public resources to establish or administer payroll deduction plans for contributions to campaign committees, to allow labor organizations to make expenditures without becoming committees, and to allow divisions of labor organizations to be considered individual committees for the purpose of certain campaign finance regulations.

Supporters say the bill will strengthen workers’ political voices. But it would also reduce the transparency of unions’ spending in politics.

As the House fiscal analysis reads: “A labor organization would still be subject to reporting requirements but would be able to make an expenditure in any amount without becoming a committee for reason of making an expenditure.”

The House Committee on Elections passed the bill, and on May 16 it was referred for a second reading in the House.

Therese Boudreaux is a Michigan Capitol Confidential intern. 

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.