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In Michigan, Labor Breaks Even

November 8th, 2012  |  Matt Pavich

In Tuesday’s elections, organized labor made a big push in the state of Michigan. Labor heavily promoted Proposal 2, which would have enshrined the right to collective bargaining in the state’s constitution and pushed for a referendum on Public Act 4, which gave emergency managers the right to dump collective bargaining agreements in order to improve the finances of a municipality. It was a huge effort by Michigan’s labor unions which feared that efforts such as those in neighboring Wisconsin and Ohio to gut the right to collective bargaining could soon visit Michigan.

In the end, Labor seemingly broke even. Voters rejected the effort to enshrine the right to collective bargaining in the state constitution. They also voted to rescind Public Act 4. So, no right to collective bargaining, but also no more emergency managers dumping your CBA.

Statements by the state’s Republican leaders, however, suggest that Michigan’s unions have a continuing fight. Although Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has said he doesn’t support right to work legislation, many in his party are gearing up for such a push. The state’s Republican leaders have also suggested that they may seek to replace the emergency manager measure. And some have said that since labor came after them, with the emergency manager referendum, it’s now time to go after labor.

All of this bears watching on a national level. Michigan is the home to the American Auto Industry and unions and union members gave a huge boost to President Barack Obama’s successful reelection strategy. Unions in Wisconsin and Ohio punished elected leaders who stripped them of their right to collectively bargain and elected officials around the country have steered clear of such ideas since. But with pressing fiscal decisions affecting almost every state, the temptation will be to go after public employees. Thanks to this split decision, Michigan’s unions and elected officials now have a chance to forge a new path toward fiscal solvency. Hopefully, they’ll go down that path together.