In a legislative frenzy only to be rivaled by the great lameduck circle-jerk of 2012, Michigan lawmakers are churning-out stop-gap bills meant to do nothing more than punish unions and employers for negotiating in good faith.
A number of laws, including Right-to-Work, are set to take effect this week. As Democracy Tree reported last month, numerous state universities were renegotiating their contracts for ten year terms in amicable agreements across the table designed to stabilize relations in the face of the pending contract wars that would otherwise ensue under RTW. Lawmakers quickly responded by entering a bill that would penalize these institutions 15 percent for bargaining in good faith prior to enactment of RTW, and the contentious chaos it will bring.
Last week, Washtenaw County, also acting in good faith, legally renegotiated their contract in an effort to avoid the predictable divisiveness of RTW. In another legislative temper tantrum, House lawmakers have again crafted a bill to similarly punish units of government for cooperating with their unions. Yesterday, the House General Government Appropriations Subcommittee approved a bill to withhold an un-specified amount of revenue sharing from units of government that work with their unions.
These bills make the GOP motive crystal clear: They are intended to create tension between public sector workers and their employers. They are not the acts of statesmen — they are the petty and unprofessional misbehaviors of children dressed in suits.
Additionally, this demonstrates the woeful lack of knowledge of our elected leaders. Research found that Michigan public sector employers are happy with their union relationships, and that the premise behind RTW is utterly false.
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.
In 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.”
Michigan lawmakers should be ashamed of themselves.
Gov. Snyder has equivocated in his remarks about legislating penalties against the public sector for acting in good faith. If history teaches us anything, it is clear Michigan cannot predict what Snyder will do out of political expediency.
Amy Kerr Hardin This article also appears in Voters Legislative Transparency Project