Mackinac Center commentary and coverage on the public employee unrest in Michigan and neighboring states appears below.

Helpful Facts About Michigan's Public Sector

Click here for the numbers on Michigan's public employees.

Public-Sector Bargaining Privileges Are Not Inalienable Rights

Public-sector bargaining proposals in Wisconsin, Ohio and Idaho have prompted impassioned claims about “collective bargaining rights.” This reference to “rights” is commonplace, but it’s misleading. As the U.S. Supreme Court has observed, collective bargaining with government is not a fundamental right, but rather a statutory privilege — a privilege that gives government unions systemic leverage that private unions do not have.

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Time to Repeal Public Act 312

The Legislature is set to consider a bill that would repeal Public Act 312 of 1969, which creates a binding arbitration process for labor disputes involving police officers and firefighters. On its surface, binding arbitration seems to be an attractive way to bring unions and employers together and create a contract when the two sides cannot agree on terms, but in practice binding arbitration has failed to resolve labor disputes quickly and fairly.

  • Binding arbitration works well when there are clear rules for an arbitrator to apply, but under PA 312 the arbitration panel has a wide range of criteria, with no clear rules to guide them, as they attempt to cobble together the terms of a fair contract. Although arbitrators are often used to interpret existing contracts, it is rare for companies and unions in the private sector to bring in an arbitrator to decide the terms of a contract.

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Buddy, Can You Spare $580?

Benefits for government workers at all levels in Michigan cost every state resident about $580, Jack McHugh, senior legislative analyst, told WILX-TV10 in Lansing.

"Michigan public employees collect fringe benefits that extend what they would be in the private sector by $5.7 billion per year,” McHugh said. “I think if you asked most Michigan residents are you willing to write a check in order to give public employees $580 more than what you get, most would say I don’t think so."

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Lawmakers Walk Out on Legislatures, But No One Walks Out on a Union

Democratic lawmakers in Wisconsin and now Indiana are refusing to show up and vote on union-related legislation because they are afraid the bills will pass. Their absence prevents their respective legislative bodies from having a quorum and thus being able to conduct business. In various ways they have said their purpose is to protect collective bargaining “rights,” which are actually legal privileges, for public-sector workers.

Ironically, the collective bargaining regimes they are defending generally recognize no right to walk away from union bargaining tables.

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Forced Unionization Case Awaiting Court Decision

The case involving the forced unionization of some 40,000 home-based day care owners and operators still awaits a decision by the Michigan Supreme Court, according to WWTV-WWUP TV9&10.

The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation filed a lawsuit against the Michigan Department of Human Services in September 2009 on behalf of three day care owners who are forced to pay union dues out of subsidy checks they receive from the state on behalf of low-income families.

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Kersey Testifies on Prevailing Wage

Paul Kersey, director of labor policy, was invited to testify before the state House Oversight, Reform and Ethics Committee regarding Michigan’s prevailing wage law, according to both MIRS Capitol Capsule and Gongwer News Service.

Prevailing wage dictates that union-scale wages be paid on construction projects involving taxpayer money, regardless of who gets the bid.

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Madness in Mad-Town

Brace yourselves — unionized insanity is liable to spread here

Madison, home of the University of Wisconsin and site of the Wisconsin state Legislature, is one of the few cities that can match up with Ann Arbor and Berkeley, Calif., for leftish trendiness. It is often referred to, by both admirers and critics, as “Mad-town.” Seldom has a city’s nickname been quite so appropriate.

The latest outbreak of lunacy began when Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, confronting a severe budget crisis, proposed sharp limitations on collective bargaining in state and local governments.

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A Reform Movement Is Born

Lawmakers in Ohio, Wisconsin and Michigan zeroing in on the union establishment

Across the upper Midwest, in Michigan and neighboring states, lawmakers are beginning to focus on unions — especially government employee unions — and the damaging role they have played.

In Michigan, Rep. Amanda Price, R-Holland, has introduced a bill to repeal the state's prevailing wage law, which prohibits granting government construction project contracts to the lowest bidder unless the company pays union scale wages. Enacted at a time when unions made up a much larger part of the construction work force, this law adds 10 percent to the cost of infrastructure and other projects.

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What Is the Future for Michigan's Public Employee Unions?

Ending special union bargaining status for public employees has been a topic across the Great Lakes where Republican governors are preparing to take office.

What would have to happen in Michigan for such a thing to occur here?

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All The Cool Guvs Are Doing It

Challenging the unions, that is

At some point you have to consider this a trend. As we noted earlier, Governors of northern states are taking a long, hard look at government employee collective bargaining: last week it was Wisconsin Gov.-Elect Scott Walker, two days ago it was outgoing Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

And yesterday incoming Ohio Gov. John Kasich offered his own take on his state’s collective bargaining law. Kasich announced his intention to end binding arbitration of labor disputes. Michigan’s binding arbitration law, very similar to Ohio’s, adds as much as five percent to the cost of government.

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Public Sector Unions — The New Tammany Hall

An analysis performed by Mackinac Center scholars finds a correlation between public sector unionism, faster government spending growth and weaker state employment growth.

The history and actual mechanism that brought about these sad outcomes were detailed last month in a Weekly Standard piece by professors Fred Siegel and Dan DiSalvo called, "The New Tammany Hall: Public sector unions have become a labor aristocracy — and they are bankrupting states and municipalities."

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The Public Employee Union Problem

Under the National Labor Relations Act, private-sector unions are allowed to extract dues and fees from workers if the employer agrees to it. The NLRA, passed in 1935 during Roosevelt's first term, does not, however, apply to public sector employees, including state and federal workers, because the thinking was that this would over-politicize government and cause a conflict of interest between unions and politicians.

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