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Union-backed personal information bill passes Senate

Bill giving labor bosses access to nonmembers’ contact data is an ‘unwarranted invasion of privacy,’ says Michigan Association of School Boards

Michigan’s Senate approved a bill Thursday that would force government employers to hand personal information about their employees to unions.

According to the Senate Fiscal Agency analysis, Senate Bill 169 would “require a public employer to provide specified employment and contact information of public employees to the labor organization responsible for representing the public employees in collective bargaining agreements, except in cases where a public employee’s address was a confidential address.”

Read it for yourself: Senate Bill 169

Related reading: Senate bill would turn public workers’ contact info to unions

Senate Bill 169 was introduced March 9 by Sen. John Cherry and referred to the Senate Labor Committee Cherry chairs. In May it passed through commmittee and Thursday it passed the Senate in a party-line vote, with all 20 Senate Democrats in favor and all 18 Senate Republicans opposed.

After its passage in the Senate, the bill was referred to the House Labor Committee. The bill would need to pass both houses in identical forms, then be signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, to enact into law.

The rationale for the bill, per the Senate Fiscal Agency, is that “some people believe collective bargaining representatives have trouble communicating effectively with those they represent because of out-of-date employment and contact information.”

But labor unions already have the contact information of their members. Senate Bill 169 is about opt-outs. As a result of the 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Janus v. AFSCME, which gives government workers the right to opt out, the right-to-work repeal doesn’t apply. Government employees in Michigan and around the country have the right to work without joining unions.

The Michigan Association of School Boards cited the Janus decision in its testimony opposing the bill.

“MASB is opposed to Senate Bill 169 because our members feel this is an unwarranted invasion of privacy,” wrote Jennifer Smith, director of government relations for the association. “Under the U.S. Supreme Court Janus Decision, public employees are still under ‘right-to-work’ laws and therefore do not have to join a union. Forcing a school district, and other public employers, to turn over an employee’s personal information to an organization they may not want to be a part of puts the employer in a difficult position with a brand new employee.”

Smith suggested instead a consent-based approach.

“We instead urge you to consider amending the bill to have the newly hired employee consent to having their preferred method of communication shared by the public employer with the appropriate collective bargaining representative,” Smith wrote.

In Michigan, workers who are not union members are still represented by unions in collective bargaining. Union supporters call this the free rider problem.

Despite perennial complaints about nonunion members being represented by unions, Michigan lawmakers have not tried to fix it. Of the 1,111 bills submitted in the Michigan Legislature in 2023, not one would resolve the free rider issue.

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.