Local Leaders Don’t Like Michigan Lawmakers or Right-to-Work

100_1690Here in Michigan, we love home rule. Our township and city halls belong to us, and our locally elected officials, police and firefighters, are our friends and neighbors.

We prefer to trust our hometown leaders and their opinions.

The state has around 2400 units of local government, including counties, townships, cities and villages. Some would argue otherwise, but Michigan is not overburdened with too much local government, although lawmakers and wonks from both sides of the aisle would have us believe we are swamped in a quagmire of governance, we’re actually on the low-end compared to other states.

Speculative arguments in support of the purported benefits of government mergers as the magic budgetary bullet continue to make the rounds. Yet Michigan citizens readily demonstrate their commitment to home rule at the ballot box. Democracy Tree has written numerous times about the false economy of merger mania. Last November, the voters of the twin cities of Saugatuck and Douglas soundly defeated a merger proposal in favor of local control.

Under the Snyder administration, Lansing has been leaning hard on local units — squeezing budgets, tying funding to corporate-model “best practices”, and hammering public sector employees, particularly with their conservative legislative crown jewel: right-to-work.

So, out of curiosity, just how do our locally elected leaders really feel about right-to-work in Michigan?

Survey says: Less than half support the law.

Although police and firefighters are exempt from RTW, a slight majority (53 percent) of local officials either oppose the law, don’t have an opinion, or say it doesn’t apply to them. A recently published Michigan Public Policy Survey from the Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy, titled Views on Right-to-Work Legislation Among Michigan’s Local Government Leaders, demonstrates a pervasive low-level hum of disdain for the regressive anti-union law. The Michigan Education Association revealed  last fall that RTW had little effect on their ability to collect union dues, and the MPP report bolsters the ineffectual nature of the law. Folks just aren’t buying-into the notion that public sector employees are the problem.

The tired rhetoric of the Tea Party, Mackinac Center, ALEC, and Americans for Prosperity is becoming increasingly annoying to Michiganders. In the light of day, their talking points are losing their political sex appeal — not via public protest, but more through a collective…yawn. The voter love affair with this brand of conservatism is waning. Much like when an earnest suitor is spurned — it’s not the “No” that smarts so much, but it’s the “Next” that really kills it.

Sorry darling, we’re just not that into you.

The MPP survey echoed the lack of impact that right-to-work had on MEA union employees:

Overall, local leaders from jurisdictions with public sector unions generally say they expect limited impacts from the right-to-work laws, in terms of their governments’ fiscal health, their ability to attract and retain employees, and their relationships with employee unions.

This finding would not have come as a shock to the survey conductors. Previous surveys have indicated local governments are generally satisfied with union relationships, and the flexibility of union leadership in negotiations.

There’s more bad news for GOP lawmakers.

While, another recent MPP survey of local leaders found a razor-thin margin of support for Gov. Snyder (51 percent), they were not so forgiving of the legislature.

Local officials are much more critical of the performance of the Republican-led Legislature than that of the Governor, with just a quarter of all local leaders (26%) rating the Legislature’s performance as either good or excellent, and 31% rating it as poor. These percentages are essentially unchanged from assessments in 2012.

The survey goes on to explain the reasons behind the unfavorable rating of Michigan lawmakers:

[L]ocal officials who give the legislature negative ratings most often mention concerns about it being too partisan, say that it has cut funding for local government too far, indicate that it is moving the state in the wrong economic direction and has the wrong business, labor, and tax policies.

Local government officials, whether Democrats or Republicans, maintain a strong independent streak, and they are flat-out unhappy with the GOP-led legislature and their policy initiatives under this administration.

State lawmakers return to session on January 8th. Rest assured, they’ve cooked-up more additionally repulsive ideas over the holidays. Happy New Year.

DSCN0444Amy Kerr Hardin

 Learn the facts about mergers and consolidations here.

 Read about an expensive merger here.



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8 Responses to Local Leaders Don’t Like Michigan Lawmakers or Right-to-Work

  1. Diana Menhennick says:


    Thanks for writing this blog piece about the local level officials not being happy with the politics of Lansing. I am one of those local elected officials and I can say that since I was elected in 2009 Lansing has continued to crush local units of government with unfunded mandates and bad public policy. Democracy is no longer alive in Michigan.

  2. Rob Stewart says:

    It also begs the question, if RTW is so great why were police and firefighters EXEMPT from the law???

  3. Gary Glenn says:

    Remarkable spin on the results of the poll cited, which in fact found that local government leaders who expressed an opinion favor Michigan’s new Right to Work law by a more than 2-to-1 margin, while the remainder characterized themselves as either neutral (i.e., they don’t oppose the law) or undecided or said it doesn’t apply to their unit of government. Only one in five local government leaders expressed opposition to the law. From the poll summary itself:

    “Overall, just less than half (47%) of Michigan’s local government leaders say they support the state’s new public sector right-to-work law, while 22% oppose it. Another third are either neutral regarding the law, unsure, or say it’s not applicable to them.”

    All local government employees should be free to join and financially support a labor union if they choose, and they should be equally free to work for their county, city, or township without being forced as a condition of employment to join or financially support a union.

    And if it’s had no effect on MEA officials’ ability to collect dues, as the author says, then what possible objection could there be to the individual employee’s freedom to choose as guaranteed by the law?

    • admin says:

      The article clearly states that of the 53 percent, it was a mixed response. The respondents had the choice of saying they liked the law, and they checked other boxes. The take-away is that it’s not a majority, but a plurality that support RTW. That’s pretty weak. In electoral politics, that equals no mandate. Combined with the low estimation of state lawmakers, the tale is told.

  4. Gary Glenn says:

    Police officers and fire fighters should also be free to work for their community without being forced to join or financially support a hyper-political private organization. Michigan’s new Right to Work law should be amended to extend its individual freedom protections to police and fire employees as well.

  5. Gary Glenn says:

    Yes, the tale is told: Michigan is a Right to Work state, and will remain so. With the exception of fire fighters and police officers — an egregious oversight — it is now illegal to discriminate against and fire employees who choose as a matter of conscience not to join or financially support a hyper-political private organization. Given that police and fire employees also have a right of conscience, that oversight should be corrected.

    Again, what possible objection is there to the law if it’s had no effect on government employee unions’ ability to collect dues, as you assert?

    • admin says:

      Er, you do know why police and firefighters were exempted, don’t you?

      • Gary Glenn says:

        Er, yes. And they shouldn’t have been. If an electrician or grocery checker or teacher should by law have the freedom to choose regarding union affiliation, without fear of penalty either way, so should police officers and fire fighters.

        In any case, if the new law hasn’t affected MEA officials’ ability to collect dues, what’s the objection?

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