Michigan voters are set to decide Tuesday, Nov. 6, whether to amend the state constitution to protect collective bargaining from future and past legislation. A "yes" vote would approve the measure. A "no" vote strikes it down.
As an end run on Right to Work legislation -- a law that would make it illegal to require membership in a union as a condition of employment -- labor unions across the country are dumping money into Prop. 2 in what they see as a final safe guard to protect their memberships from being slowly eroded and their ability to negotiate squandered. Although, Republican Gov. Rick Snyder has said previously Right to Work legislation is not a priority for his administration, many labor groups are toting this proposal as deciding point and are rallying members.
In an open letter to his members, John Karebian, Michigan Nurses Association executive director, called the "fate of Proposal 2" a "turning point for workers in our country."
"People around the country are counting on us to show that workers don't have to sit back and take the assaults that politicians and corporations have been piling on us," Karebian said. "Making Michigan a state that guarantees workers the basic right to have a voice in the workplace is the most important issue of our time."
The national proposal has gotten enough attention from national Democrats to have former President Bill Clinton give it his endorsement Tuesday.
The proposal has also drawn attraction as a potential civil rights issue and recently gained the backing of the Michigan NAACP, who "sees the right to collective bargaining as a civil right, which is attained through a majority vote, and seeks to assure that the right for all Michigan workers who so choose the option of collective bargaining," in a recent adopted resolution.
Under the actual amendment language, collective bargaining would be protected from any previous or future laws passed in the Michigan Legislature that restrict collective bargaining. The state of Michigan would, however, still have the ability uphold laws prohibiting unions from striking.
The wording also defines an employer as a person or entity employing one or more people.
While public and private employee unions support the measure, the business community in Michigan has been staunchly opposed.
The Northwest Michigan Regional Chamber Alliance -- including Petoskey, Charlevoix and Traverse City chambers among others -- collectively opposes all proposals two through five because it sees the constitutional amendments as issues that can be solved in the Legislature.
"Collective bargaining is protected at both the federal and state level. In our mind, Prop. 2 isn't about protecting collective bargaining, because it already is," said Doug DeYoung, vice president of government relations at the Northwest Regional Michigan Regional Chamber Alliance. "We acknowledge that. We respect that ... So, we are not making a statement on collective bargaining."
However, DeYoung said the language in Prop. 2 talks about previous and future laws being eliminated.
"You are taking the ability out of the Legislature and the people of the state to be able to address specific issues when it comes to (issues like) post-Labor Day school starts, when it comes to the requirements and things needed at the local level that are paid for at the state level."
Prop. 2 opponents say if passed, potentially 170 laws already on the books would have to be changed in Michigan and ultimately will result in an expensive statewide court battle.
The political war to secure votes on both sides of the proposal has been nasty and expensive. Labor supporting political groups have spent $21.9 million and while opponent groups, largely from business, have spent $25.9 million, the nonpartisan Michigan Campaign Finance Network announced this week.
Top supporting donors, according to the report, are the UAW which has put in about $4.3 million total, the Michigan Education Association ($2.2 million, AFL-CIO State Unity Fund ($1.8 million), American Federation of Teachers ($1 million), National Education Association ($1 million) and the USO Crisis Fund ($1 million).
The leading opponent to Prop. 2 and the other five constitutional amendments has been Michigan Chamber of Commerce, which has given about $10.4 million various committees, as of Oct. 26, the MCFN states. The chamber's biggest donors include the Michigan Republican Party ($2.5 million) and Meijer, Inc. ($300,000).
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