Michigan Higher Ed Faculty Skirting RTW — GOP Pissed

With the union-busting intentions of Michigan’s Right-to-Work law poised to take effect on March 27th, faculty members at various universities are quietly contemplating (and certainly already negotiating) extensions of their current contracts. Existing agreements are exempt from the deleterious effects of RTW, so organized labor views this as an opportunity to stave-off the retrograde law while they work on various legal and legislative avenues to neutralize it.

The Battle Creek Enquirer reports that Michigan State University and Lansing Community College are in secret talks, and that Wayne State University and Western Michigan University are openly exploring the contract extension option as a way to maintain stable relations with faculty. However, Michigan House Republicans see it differently and are grumbling that they may use this as an excuse to withhold funding from any institution that extends contracts.

These lawmakers have a grossly bloated perception of public animosity towards unions.

The University of Michigan recently collaborated with Michigan Public Policy Survey late last year on an extensive research project that found that Michigan’s local units of government were satisfied with their union relationships and negotiations. 

Additionally, a RTW study conducted by the Michigan State University School of Human Resources and Labor Relations, published in January 2011 by the Employment Policy Research Network, examined the economic impact in all 50 states over a three year period, comparing and contrasting RTW states to those that had strong labor standards. Among their key findings:

  • “…high wages increase aggregate demand in the state leading to increased economic activity.”
  • “Right-to-work laws and taxes seem to have no effect on economic activity. Similarly, unionization has little effect on economic activity.”
  • “…unionized firms are able to use productivity enhancements to offset any higher costs associated with collective bargaining.”
  • “…results suggest that the benefits of Right-to-work laws and tax reductions may be more political than economic.”

But, GOP lawmakers aren’t interested in facts when there are campaign contributions to be had. Their threats to withhold funding may be nothing more than bluster, but they count on not having their bluff called.

Democratic Rep. Sam Singh, who represents the East Lansing area, told the following to The Battle Creek Enquirer: “I think it’s a dangerous precedent for the legislature to be involved in contract negotiations between a university and its employees.”


Amy Kerr Hardin This article also appears in Voters Legislative Transparency Project

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