Politics: Michigan constitutional amendment would codify union power...and it's in trouble

Published by: Robert Laurie on Monday September 17th, 2012

Robert Laurie

By ROBERT LAURIE - New constitutional amendment would be Michigan's economic suicide note.

It's called the "Protect Our Jobs Amendment" or Prop 2, and it will be on November's ballot in Michigan.  For those unaware, it's an amendment designed to enshrine union power in the state, and make public sector union bosses - literally - more powerful than legislators or citizens.  In essence, the new amendment would codify into law every wish for power and lucre that union leadership has ever imagined.  It would:

  • make collective bargaining for public sector unions an integral of the state's constitution and daily operation. 
  • prevent the passage of any future right-to-work legislation, forever.
  • turn government union bargaining sessions into a type of legislature, allowing union contracts to supersede and overturn laws made by elected officials.
  • give public sector labor unions the power to repeal any of the laws that have helped Michigan's economy grow over the last two years.
  • allow union regulation to override state laws regarding the number of hours in a workweek and job conditions

As the state slipped deeper and deeper into its economic malaise, it became clear that the stringent demands and exorbitant pensions of its organized labor were a major part of the problem.  In particular, Detroit has struggled and collapsed under the weight of its powerful union bosses, creating a massive debt even as it scaled back services. 

Those pictures you see on TV, the ones showing a Motor City that looks like Berlin after the blitz?  In large part, the negative growth that created those images was brought to you by Detroit's unfundable union contracts.  Now, a ballot referendum may ensconce the last 50 years of bad decisions into a monolithic law that will be virtually unassailable - at least until the state declares bankruptcy.

Fortunately, a new poll shows the measure is in trouble.

A September 16th EPIC-MRA poll characterized the law as granting "public and private employees the constitutional right to organize and bargain collectively through labor unions. It would invalidate existing or future state or local laws to limit the ability to join unions and bargain collectively, and to negotiate and enforce collective bargaining agreements, including employees’ financial support of their labor unions. Laws may be enacted to prohibit public employees from striking. It would override state laws that regulate hours and conditions of employment to the extent that those laws conflict with collective bargaining agreements. It would define “employer” as a person or entity employing one or more employees."

Respondents were split, with 48% saying they would vote "Yes," and 43% saying they would vote "no."  That may seem like the measure is sure to pass, but if history is any indication, a proposed amendment has less than 50% support at this stage of a Michigan election is likely to fail.

We can certainly hope so, and we'll keep an eye on the situation as it unfolds.  If this monster actually manages to pass, it may be time for many Michiganders to relocate.  

We hear Wisconsin is getting its act together....