Long labor contracts draw ire of Mich. Republicans

Michigan public universities and K-12 districts that consider signing unusually long new contracts before the contentious right-to-work law goes into effect March 28 may have to think twice.
AP Wire
Mar 4, 2013

Some Republican lawmakers with the power of the purse are threatening to limit their state aid and call them into the Capitol for an explanation.

The way the law works, unionized workers can no longer be forced to pay union dues or fees after the expiration of any collective bargaining agreement in place on March 28. Until then, employers and unions are free to negotiate contract extensions to delay the impact of right to work.

But an eight-year contract nearing approval at Wayne State University — and one already approved at a suburban Detroit school district — are now flash points in the Legislature and courts that could influence similar contract talks elsewhere in the state.

"I don't see how an eight-year contract is financially responsible. I think it's a slap in the face to our parents and students," said Rep. Al Pscholka, a Stevensville Republican who chairs the House budget subcommittee that helps decide funding for all 15 public universities.

He is proposing that no university get a funding increase in the next budget if it signs a contract extension or renewal before March 28 — unless the contract guarantees at least 10 percent savings in labor costs.

The GOP-controlled House Oversight Committee wants Wayne State officials to show this week and explain their tentative deal with the faculty union. Officials from the Taylor School District declined to appear last week, though the school board sent a letter defending a new 4 ½-year contract with a 10 percent pay cut in the first three years.

A separate clause extends for 10 years a requirement that employees pay dues or — if they do not want to be in the union — service fees.

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a free-market think tank, sued Thursday on behalf of three Taylor teachers, alleging the union security clause is illegal. The school board says nothing in state law limits the length of a collective bargaining agreement. The head of the state's second-biggest teachers' union calls the lawsuit "absurd."

The developments are being followed by K-12 schools, universities and local governments across Michigan. It is tough to track exactly how many unions or public employers have seriously considered reopening contracts since the right-to-work law was signed nearly three months ago. Yet informal talks are believed to be occurring in a fair number.

A part-time instructors' union at Western Michigan University says a routine three-year collective bargaining agreement is in jeopardy for now because the school is scared about losing state funding, even though it is not an unusually lengthy contract.

Ferris State's board of trustees just rejected a proposal to extend the faculty union's contract. Several unions have approached the University of Michigan and Michigan State University about reopening contracts.

And it is not just universities.

Rep. Bill Rogers, who chairs the House Appropriations subcommittee in charge of the K-12 budget, says school administrators are asking if he will propose giving less money to districts that agree to new labor contracts before March 28.

"My comments to them are please don't give me a reason to," said Rogers, a Brighton Republican who says he can see both sides. "It's disingenuous to circumvent the law. But some school folks are saying we have everyone at the table and we are seeing real savings."

He remains skeptical.

"My question to them is: Have you ever in the history of your business or school had a 10-year contract? That seems a bit strange."

Democrats counter that public employers, including Wayne State, were already negotiating contracts because their old contracts had expired before Republican Gov. Rick Snyder signed the right-to-work law in December.

"The law is not in effect yet. Until it gets into effect, they can negotiate any way they want to negotiate," said Sen. Morris Hood III of Detroit, the top Democrat on the Senate's higher education subcommittee. "To penalize someone for doing that just seems absurd to me. ... We've talked about multi-year budgets. That's what they did. They did a multi-year budget so they can plan the future out."

Hood says Wayne State's tentative contract shows why collective bargaining is beneficial.

"The two parties are happy. So what's wrong with that?"

Some Republicans do not seem as concerned with the new contracts, noting that Wayne State has been without a contract since July. Wage and benefit provisions in the Wayne State deal were not made public by the school Friday.

Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker says she expects Wayne State President Allan Gilmour to make the case that a long-term contract is preferable and more fiscally responsible. She says her main interest is holding down tuition increases and protecting taxpayers who help fund university operations.

"In most cases, the local governing boards are not there to protect the unions," said Schuitmaker, a Lawton Republican who chairs the Senate panel that decides universities' funding. "I would imagine my goals are pretty parallel to most of them. If taxpayers and students are helped out, I guess I don't see any reason for the Legislature at that point to step in."

Comments

davewali

Sounds like the Republicans are upset because EMPLOYERS, with the consent of the unions, will be able to more accurately predict labor costs beyond the normal 3 years. Circumventing the new law.....or taking advantage of its provisions? They want to PUNISH employers with long-term contracts for cooperating with their unions......is there a BETTER signal that this legislature is ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY trying to drive unions out of the state?
Perhaps Rogers should discuss with the Republican leader Bolger on how "It's disingenuous to circumvent the law." Bolger did his best to do it...does Rogers have an opinion on THAT?

Juune

I thought blackmail was a crime. There's nothing these rep thugs won't stoop to.

BTL2A

However, Republicans feel its ok to circumvent voters wishes on things, such as emergency manager laws.

bigdeal

Can there be any lower life form than a Republican?

dyankee

Yeah actually, they're called Democrats, liberals, union leadership, progressives....should I continue? No State funding contract should be longer than 3 years. Look what can happen in 3 years, we took on 7 trillion in new debt as a country in the past 3 years so, now we need to adjust our spending. This is what responsible people would do in their personal life and it ought not be any different with tax payer money. Why is this so hard to understand? 8 years or 10 years to be locked into a Union contract is fleecing of the tax payer. This is precisely why a majority of people do not support Unions. Unions have lost their way and have become the reason they were started in the first place. Unions better create value in the membership and attract due payers because they are going to get their ass handed to them by the Union workers if they don't. When over half of union workes stop paying dues after the 28th you will quickly see how little support unions really have even amoung their ranks. Union leadership should of been paying attention to the working men & women of their membership, instead of skimming millions from their coffers to contribute to a failed recall effort of a Governor in another State and to Democrat canidates at every level of Government. You reap what you sow. Job well done Michigan legislature and Gov. Snyder.

bigdeal

Yes, you will reap what you sow. Can you explain to us why a CEO makes over 250 times what an average worker makes? It is all about the wealthy erasing the middle class, about the redistribution of wealth really...http://www.youtube.com/embed/QPK...

Vladtheimp

The same reason such noteworthy conservatives like Oprah Winfrey, LeBron James, Jennifer Lopez, Lady Gaga, Tiger Woods, etc. etc. do - because people for whatever reason think they are worth it, and they have a past track record of performance.

The same reasons individuals who apply themselves, stay in school, graduate from college, marry and are part of a two parent family make so much more than screw-ups, drop-outs, druggies, and young, single mothers.

Facts is hard . . . .

dyankee

First of all, I reject your premise Bigdeal. Nearly 90% of the CEO's in this Country do NOT make 250 times what an average worker makes so, stop with your Unionized talking point BS! You're so full of venom and hatred of successful people because you are not one them. A well educated, intelligent, hardworking CEO has worked harder than the average worker and has sacrificed everything, at the risk of loosing it all, to earn his/her salary...more than YOU and more than ME. Putting a cap on what "any" US citizen can make in the greatest country God has ever giving mankind, is like deciding that living pass 80 is too long or families can only have 1 child. Your hatred for the successful and wealthy is no less than organized bullying(to use your way of thinking) Stop being a victim of Unions and go out on your own, risking everything you've got to create or contribute a good or service to the consumer and/or create jobs for people. If successfull, you will be rewarded beyond disbelief monitarily and personal fulfillment. Then, you can join the ranks of Vlad and myself and become the enemy of our President and the Democrat party because you have become too successful. Success (=) individual freedom Bigdeal and this is what your party loaths. Stop waiting for your ship to come in....swim out to it!

bigdeal

Of course you reject it, duh.
And your god is a myth btw.
Do you believe in trickle-down? Another myth.

I know A LOT of self professed Republicans suckling off the proverbial teat right now...
Republicans not making a house payment for 3 years, but still in their house, not working or even looking for a job, while you and I pay their utilities and food bills.
Other Republicans I know are babies having babies, playing the system, not getting married and working so few hours on purpose, just so the state takes care of them.
Please don't blind yourself to this fact, MANY Republicans are on welfare too.
Republicans are NOT ALL WEALTHY nor have all been "rewarded beyond disbelief monitarily and personal fulfillment" (nor are all blessed with proper grammar or spelling apparently).
FYI: we ALL (you included) know way more people who have professed to be Republican all their lives who have switched sides because of the drum beat they hear from the right.

Vladtheimp

Let's reduce the teat by 20% and see what piglets scream the loudest - according to you there should be some fair balance between Republicans and Democrats. Want to put it to the test?

bigdeal

In this area? Bring it on Vlad!

Vladtheimp

The subject of the story is statewide, your original comment seemed to be nationwide, as was the video you linked - let's start the 20% cut statewide, before bringing it national and see who squeals the loudest - http://youtu.be/N9m0y3Z_zAI.

bigdeal

Not sure what you are cutting by 20%. Is it all the entitlements? Social Security which everyone has paid into all their lives? Disability? The current tax breaks for the wealthy & businesses so they don't pay any taxes after making millions? Ooo, that would make some R's howl! Because we ARE talking corporate welfare here also, right?

Vladtheimp

Let's see - the story was about public employee unions trying to negotiate unusually long contracts to keep their union entitlements and avoid right to work; bigdeal brings up CEO pay; bigdeal brings up welfare; big deal attempts to limit the discussion to "this area"; big deal now wants to expand discussion beyond "welfare", which he introduced, to corporate welfare - bigdeal seems to squirm as well as squeal.

To help - yes, Social Security is a kind of entitlement, although people were forced to pay some amount into it. Disability is an entitlement, but why would any thinking person want to cut the entitlement of a person who is truly disabled instead of cutting the entitlement of people who have made welfare a way of life? Not me. Corporate welfare - sure - let's start with all of the special interest environmental welfare programs since they have been singularly unsuccessful.

So, let's start with Bridge Cards, Section 8 housing, Earned Income Tax Credit, and all Corporate Welfare, and see which piglets scream the loudest, amplified by the media.

dyankee

Moderators have removed this comment because it contained Profane, obscene, sexual or derogatory language.

dyankee

Hey GHT, should I have said "butt kicking" instead? I hear harsher language on MSNBC and from our own President than this.

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