Michigan Republicans passed right-to-work legislation that banned mandatory union dues in December 2012, amid pushback from big labor. Now there’s a different kind of pushback as the state’s teachers unions are attempting to skirt the new law and keep the money rolling into union coffers. The teachers' trick is to negotiate new contracts before the right-to-work law goes into effect on March 28th, but some GOP politicians are fighting back against the tactic by threatening to withhold funds.
The battle is over the political power that unions in states like Michigan have been able to gain for decades by forcing new hires to pay union dues as a condition of their employment. Right-to-work laws end that practice, so they are poison to both big labor fat-cats and the Democrat politicians that are the beneficiaries of the union money.
The teachers' unions have jumped into the Michigan fray with a plan to keep funds flowing through forced fees. There’s been a frenzy of last minute contracts that would extend the union dues and "service fees" that non-union teachers have been required to pay. As the Detroit News explains:
The University of Michigan and the Lecturers' Employee Organization (LEO) reached a tentative five-year contract, officials announced Wednesday.
The union, which represents 1,500 non-tenure track instructors on U-M's three campuses in Ann Arbor, Flint and Dearborn, has been bargaining with the university since November to replace the contract that expires April 20.
The deal comes as Wayne State University's faculty union voted Wednesday to ratify an eight-year contract that was reached last week, and WSU officials will be testifying next week before a legislative committee on how it reached its longest agreement ever.
The Wayne State officials are testifying because certain Republican legislators in Michigan are standing up to the teachers' shenanigans. Legislators are threatening to withhold state funding from universities that are trying to sneak around right-to-work. The money is from a fund announced last month by Rep. Al Pscholka, R-Stevensville, chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education, who spelled it out for Michigan Capitol Confidential.
"In my district there are people going to work every morning," Rep. Pscholka said. "They work hard and pay their taxes. They don't get eight-year contracts that guarantee a 20 percent pay hike. I don't see that as concessions that help families or students."
The right-to-work battle in Michigan is far from over, but in an era of GOP conciliation, it’s heartening to see that this is one battle where the Republicans aren’t backing down.