Midwest Unions' Desperate Last Stand

Midwest Unions' Desperate Last Stand

June 18, 2012
Originally published in The American Spectator

The voters of Wisconsin and California spoke loud and clear. They are tired of the special privileges and lavish benefits given to government unions and paid for by taxpayers. Apparently unions in Michigan did not get the message.

Last Wednesday, supporters of the so-called "Protect Our Jobs" Constitutional Amendment (POJA) submitted 684,286 petition signatures to the Michigan Department of State -- more than double the amount needed to put the measure on the ballot in November.

If passed, the Amendment would enshrine collective bargaining in the Michigan Constitution.

POJA would effectively destroy any chance for Michigan to give workers the right to say no to a union and still keep their job -- the main benefit of a right-to-work law. The proposal is already being billed as an anti-right-to-work measure, but the major impact would be the reversal of reforms to government union privileges. These reforms have helped Michigan turn the corner after a decade of economic malaise.

Supporters of the amendment say it is needed to help the middle class. In reality it will only help the roughly three percent of the Michigan population who are government union members, but will be paid for by everyone else.

The Amendment would make unions a super-legislature leaving them more powerful than the people's elected representatives. It would remove the governor and the Legislatures' (aka the voters') ability to place any limits on government unions' power except for strike clauses. POJA would mean Michigan could not continue, and would never achieve, the type of reforms that have saved Michigan taxpayers billions of dollars and turned states like Wisconsin around.

UAW member and President of Union Conservatives, Terry Bowman, calls POJA "an extreme measure that is unprecedented in labor history."

He cautions "by submitting signatures to forever change Michigan's constitution, union bosses have said that they are better equipped than the duly elected legislature to handle the economic future of the state of Michigan. …. They obviously believe that a union boss like Jimmy Hoffa or Bob King should have more control over the state's economy than the Michigan legislature and Governor."

POJA would immediately do away with the many of the public-sector reforms achieved over the last two years which have put Michigan's fiscal house in order.

CNBC reported that according to Richard K. Studley, president and chief executive of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, the ballot measure "would repeal more than 80 'cost-saving reform measures' that the Legislature has approved…"

Studley also called the measure a "jobs killer" and a power grab because it would "impose unionization on every employer and every employee in the state of Michigan."

Some of the reforms POJA could repeal include:

  • Protecting workers from having to give money to union political causes without going through a burdensome and confusing opt out process.
  • Pension reforms which have already helped Michigan taxpayers avoid $4.3 billion in pension underfunding since 1996.
  • Public school reforms including privatization of non-instructional services and the ability to remove poorly performing teachers.

POJA would also make future reforms, such as those seen in Wisconsin and Indiana, almost impossible for the Legislature to enact, putting the state at a further competitive disadvantage.

Taxpayers in Michigan already give government employees much better benefits than those in the private sector. Government employee insurance benefits are $7,149 better than those in the private sector and retirement benefits are $11,725 more per year.

The effort is reportedly spearheaded by the likes of the UAW, which represents numerous government employees, the Michigan Education Association, other unions and Democratic operatives.

These unions, and the politicians they support, stand to gain and secure in perpetuity unprecedented power and resources -- mostly at the expense of taxpayers -- if POJA is ratified. With union membership dropping and other states in the Midwest making substantial reforms, big labor is desperate to reverse its fortunes.

Unions and their political enablers will try to sell POJA as a benefit to the middle class. In truth, the middle class will be saddled with the exorbitant costs of protecting government union jobs.