Late last April, we reported that Michigan House Rep. Amanda Price (R-89) introduced a bill that would attempt to relieve employers of the legal requirement to inform replacement workers that they are in fact, replacement workers — leaving job applicants ignorant of the circumstances under which they were employed. Last week, HB-4642 passed in the House and moved along to the Senate for their consideration. The bill amends Public Act 150 of 1962 which addresses rules for employers during worker strikes.
Rep. Jim Townsend (D-26) spoke in opposition to the bill:
As a practical matter, this bill will not have much of an effect since this provision is pre-empted by the Federal Management Relations Act. But, the idea of this legislation is repugnant. It attempts to get job applicants to accept work as a scab without letting them know they are replacing a striking worker. Many workers find these types of jobs unacceptable because they don’t want to face the wrath of their co-workers, neighbors and the community for engaging in strike-breaking. Scab jobs are frequently short in duration, with regular workers returning to their jobs after the strike…Job applicants should be able to make informed decisions about whether or not to be a scab. It’s duplicitous to advertise for their services without giving them this important information.
HB-4642 passed the House 59 to 51.
Another bill introduced at the same time as a companion piece to HB-4642, although not tie-barred, was designed to prevent certain kinds of picketing that are already illegal under state law, and would allow employers to seek injunctive relief from picketing. HB 4643 would amend Public Act 176 of 1939 to make “mass picketing” of employers grounds for legal action against the unions if they interfere with business. The proposed law would demand fines of up to $1,000 per day for each individual, and $10,000 for the union every day. The House Analysis of the bill said, more or less, it was addressing a problem that doesn’t exist. The bill appears to be stalled, but given the recent GOP history of passing legislative measures that are little more than solutions looking for problems (i.e. voter fraud laws), we shouldn’t be surprised to see this acted upon.
Last year, Lisa Posthumus-Lyons (R-86) took a stab at related restrictions in HB-5023 of 2012, which would have imposed fines on public sector workers and unions for engaging in a strike. Public sector strikes, outside of public education, are historically rare in Michigan, with only about 5 per year. Teacher strikes are now similarly rare after they were made illegal in 1994. However, with the recent uptick of GOP legislative attacks on public sector employees, the House Analysis team admitted the possibility of non-teacher strikes has increased (note: the following was written ten months prior to the passage of right-to-work):
The likelihood of an alleged strike or lockout occurring by public employees or employers is unknown. Historically, such occurrences have been rare; however, given extraordinary financial circumstances surrounding public employees and employers since the “Great Recession” began and recent changes in the state authority pertaining to local oversight and labor negotiations, the past may no longer be an accurate predictor of the future, and the risk of public strikes or lockouts may have increased.
Basically, what this says is: Michigan lawmakers have pushed public sector workers to the brink, and their legislative attacks may come at a huge cost. The analysis went on to remind lawmakers that each striking worker would be legally entitled to an individual Michigan Employment Relations Commission hearing — at great cost to the state.
This legislation died, but that too, doesn’t mean it won’t rear its ugly head again.
Amy Kerr Hardin