Proposal 2: Public employee collective bargaining

Jessie Meiste
ThunderHawk Staff Writer 

Michigan voters will go to the polls November 6 to decide on one of the hottest topics on the ballot: Proposal 2. Many people think it’s a good idea, yet other people think it’s bad. Proposal 2 talks about collective bargaining and public sector labor unions. If it passes, it will amend the state constitution.

Many groups support Proposal 2. Some of these include: Michigan Education Association, Michigan Nurses Association, Michigan State Utility Workers Council, National Education Association, Progress Michigan and Michigan Democratic Party. (see link here)

These groups say Proposal 2 would restore a balance of power in labor negotiations to public sector workers by eliminating the authority of state and local elected officials. It would also override existing laws which regulate terms and/or conditions of employment, including the 2011 statue which mandated that public employees pay 20% of their healthcare premiums or have them capped at a certain level.

Teachers, firefighters, nurses and others will get more say so about their wages, benefits, hours and working conditions and/or equipment. It will be easier for these people to negotiate, especially about healthcare.

These supporters of Proposal 2 point to studies that show states who provide for collective bargaining have less unemployment, less poverty, and more people will have more money so they will spend it more at local stores, which will help the economy.

Ken Brock, Campaign Manager for Protecting Working Families, supports the idea of Proposal 2. Brock said on WJR radio’s Frank Beckman show, “It is a basic right for every worker in the state to collectively bargain for their wages, benefits, and working conditions.” (see link here)

Brock also said it is the same concept as freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and the right to bear arms. If Proposal 2 would pass, it would give collective bargaining the same constitutional protection as everything else.

Now it is only protected by state and federal law and legislature and congress can change that at whatever time. Congress can’t do that with freedom of speech, religion, and right to bear arms, but can with collective bargaining because it is not protected by the constitution. Brock says people want the right to collectively bargain protected just like freedom of speech. (see link here)

There are also many people who are opposed to Proposal 2. These include: Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, Representative Mike Shirkey, Michigan Chamber of Commerce, Detroit Regional Chamber, Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce, Michigan Association of School Boards, Michigan Republican Party and many more. (see link here)

These people are opposed to Proposal 2 because they say it would harm the economy by driving businesses to other states. It could also drive up costs to taxpayers significantly and would prohibit enactment of a right-to-work law, which is would allow people to work at a “union shop” but not be required to join the union. It also invalidates existing/future laws that limit the ability to join unions or bargain collectively and negotiate.

These opponents also argue that the constitution should not be changed for a ballot proposal.  If Proposal 2 passes, 170 different laws could be changed, and most citizens do not know which ones. Changing 170 laws could lead to many unintended consequences. They also point out that even if Proposal 2 didn’t exist, collective bargaining would still be used in the workplace in Michigan.

Rich Studley, President and CEO, Michigan Chamber of Commerce, is opposed to the idea of Proposal 2.  He also appeared on Frank Beckman’s radio show where he said the following:

“Proposal 2 doesn’t really have anything to do with collective bargaining . . . the right to collectively bargain is provided under state and is guaranteed under federal law, that federal laws have been in place for decades.” (see link here).

Studley also said it’s a power and money grab by Michigan union bosses.  He claims it will result in larger class sizes and fewer teachers.  He added that by voting yes, it will retroactively repeal the laws that require public school employees to share in the cost of pensions and healthcare, just like employees in the private sector. (see link here)  He believes people like schoolteachers should pay out of their own paycheck for healthcare and pensions – like most private sector workers have done for years.

Studley said it will cost Michigan taxpayers $1.6 billion a year in lost savings. He added that Proposal 2 was opposed by the Detroit Free Press and not a single newspaper company in Michigan has released an article in favor of Proposal 2.  He believes it is dangerous and damaging to the Michigan economy.

One last item of interest he noted was a marketing change by Proposal 2 supporters.  The name of the group for Proposal 2 got changed from “Protecting Jobs” to “Protecting Working Families” so it sounds like it impacts more people and they wouldn’t question whose jobs it will impact.

Election day is November 6, so remember to head to the polls and vote for the side you believe is best for Michigan.


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