Their Time Is Your Money

Michigan taxpayers already pay more than they should for unionized government, so there’s no need for them to pay for the unions themselves

The typical unionized government employee pays more than $450 dollars annually in membership dues or agency fees. With that kind of money available, one would think that unions could afford to pay their own staff for the time that they spend on union business. But for some reason, they don’t. Instead, local taxpayers provide many local union officials with paid “release time” or “official time” for union activities. This is a misuse of taxpayer dollars that should be brought to an end.

It is one thing to have an employee who happens to serve as a local president or steward take time off for bargaining or to prepare a grievance. For better or worse, Michigan has unionized local governments and as long as that is the case the bargaining process has to be allowed to work itself out. But bargaining and grievances are union business, not public business. 

Representing 280,000 workers at $450 a pop, government employee unions rake in better than $125 million annually. That’s money that’s effectively guaranteed by taxpayers, whose elected representatives almost always agree to forced dues, collected and turned over by government payroll departments. So it’s not like they don’t have resources. With that kind of money, government unions should be able to hire their own staffs, and if they want to be able to call on government employees to do union work, they should be able to compensate them on their own for the time.

State Rep. Marty Knollenberg, R-Troy, has proposed legislation to prohibit local governments from paying for time that government employees spend working on union business. This bill has passed the House and is now under consideration in the Senate. This is a long-overdue change. Michigan taxpayers already pay more than they should for unionized government, there’s no need for them to pay for the unions themselves.