In a blow to Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, they also rejected by a narrower margin a proposal that would have retained an emergency managers law he championed that gave state-appointed managers sweeping authority to cancel union contracts and oust elected officials overseeing insolvent local governments.
"They take the power too far," attorney Michelle Harrell, 46, said while voting against the proposal in Grosse Pointe Woods on Tuesday. "To suddenly say, 'I'm going to stop paying you,' is undemocratic."
Altogether, supporters and opponents of the ballot proposals reported they spent at least $105 million on the campaigns through Oct. 26. The rejected constitutional amendments included labor-backed Proposal 2 to guarantee collective bargaining rights, another to give bargaining rights to home health workers, and an anti-tax proposal to require a two-thirds legislative vote to raise state taxes.
Collective bargaining advocates "were unable to overcome the flood of corporate special interest money spent on ads riddled with lies, distortions and scare tactics meant to mislead voters," said Dan Lijana, a spokesman for the Proposal 2 campaign.
The rejected proposals also included Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel "Matty" Moroun's efforts to require a public vote before any competing international crossing can be built with state money, as well as environmentalists' Proposal 3, which would have required that Michigan utilities get 25 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2025.
"It is clear the voters resisted amending the constitution," said Mickey Blashfield, a leader of the failed effort to restrict new bridge construction.
The collective bargaining measure also would have banned right-to-work laws — which limit unions' ability to collect fees from nonunion workers — and rolled back recent GOP lawmaker moves to take some public employee benefits and staffing issues off the negotiating table.
Passage would have given public and private workers in Michigan the constitutional right to organize in unions and collectively bargain contracts. The proposal states any current or future laws limiting such rights would be invalid. Opponents — including Snyder — argued that would have made union leaders more powerful than elected officials and erased state and local governments' ability to set employment terms and control budgets.
Another union-backed measure on the ballot, Proposal 4, called specifically for allowing home health care workers to unionize.
Proposal 1 asked voters to retain the sweeping law that allowed the state to appoint managers for municipalities and school districts deemed to be in fiscal emergencies. Snyder and others said the law was needed so Michigan could step in to help fix financially struggling Michigan entities. Critics argued it represented a power grab that usurps the rights of local elected officials.
After the vote, Snyder said that everyone wants to see those communities succeed, but the best tool to help them now is off the table.
"It does make it more difficult for the ... communities that are in emergency," Snyder told WWJ-AM on Wednesday morning. "We were on a very positive path to hopefully start transitioning out of them. This could delay or stall that, and unfortunately could cause them to have bigger problems and issues."
Snyder had urged voters to reject the proposals to amend the constitution. He said those could have been "devastating" to the state if approved.
The bridge proposal, Proposal 6, was one of most intensely debated ballot measures. It called for changing the constitution to require a statewide vote on plans for any new international crossing. It came in response to the proposed construction of a government-brokered Canadian-financed bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario.
Moroun instead wants to build a new span of his own, and spent millions of advertising dollars to support the ballot proposal, which would not allow the state to spend money on such projects without approval from a majority of Michigan voters.