On Nov. 5, 2002, Michigan voters will consider Proposal 02-03 ("Proposal 3"), an amendment to the state constitution which, if approved, would fundamentally alter the relationship between the state and its employees. Proposal 3 is the result of efforts by state employee labor unions to secure a new system of mandatory collective bargaining for state government employees. A coalition of labor unions collected sufficient petition signatures to have the proposed constitutional amendment placed before voters.

State employee union spokesmen claim that the current system of collective bargaining allows the state too much discretion over state employment practices, permitting the state Civil Service Commission (CSC) to overturn contracts state employees have negotiated in good faith and to contract out essential state services with little or no state oversight.

If approved, Proposal 3, would add the following language to Article XI, Section 5 of the state constitution:

State classified employees shall have the right to elect bargaining representatives by a majority vote in appropriate bargaining units as determined by the commission for the purpose of collectively bargaining with the state employer and for other mutual aid and protection. The state shall bargain in good faith for the purpose of reaching a binding collective bargaining agreement with any elected bargaining representative over wages, hours, pensions and all other terms and conditions of employment. If the bargaining representative and the state cannot reach a collective bargaining agreement, the bargaining representative shall have the right 30 days after the commencement of bargaining to submit any unresolved disputes to binding arbitration for resolution thereof the same as now provided by law for public police and fire departments.

Proposal 3 would change the current system of state employment in two significant and fundamental ways.

1. Proposal 3 would end the Civil Service Commission's authority over all aspects of collective bargaining by establishing a system of mandatory collective bargaining in the state constitution.

The state Civil Service Commission currently has, with few exceptions, final authority on the terms of employment for over 60,000 state workers. Established under the state constitution as an independent, bipartisan commission, the CSC was designed to allow representatives of the public to control state employment, while at the same time protecting those same state employees from partisan political influence. The CSC has established rules regarding collective bargaining, contracting out or privatizing state services, hiring, political activity and use of union dues, and the creation or elimination of positions.

Instead of relying on the CSC to establish and modify the collective bargaining process, Proposal 3 would constitutionally mandate collective bargaining for state employees. It would prevent the CSC from either ending collective bargaining for state employees or modifying the collective bargaining process in ways that conflict with the process established by the language of Proposal 3.

2. Proposal 3 would establish a state constitutional requirement that state employee labor contract disputes be submitted to binding arbitration.

As mentioned above, the CSC currently has authority to establish and modify collective bargaining practices. Under current CSC practices, when labor contract negotiations fail to reach an agreement, the matter is referred to the Employment Relations Board for resolution.

Instead of relying on the CSC to establish and modify resolution procedures, Proposal 3 would constitutionally mandate that any unresolved disputes be submitted to binding arbitration according to the procedure now provided by law for local police and fire departments. The current arbitration procedure is established by Public Act 312 of 1969.

As this analysis will show, these two aspects of Proposal 3 mark a significant shift in state employment practices, and would have dramatic consequences for state employees, state administrators, and Michigan citizens and taxpayers.

Voters will find the following summary of the proposal on the general election ballot:

A PROPOSAL TO AMEND THE STATE CONSTITUTION TO EXTEND STATE CLASSIFIED EMPLOYEES THE RIGHT TO COLLECTIVE BARGAINING WITH BINDING ARBITRATION

The proposed constitutional amendment would:

  • Extend state classified employees, through appropriate bargaining units determined by the Civil Service Commission, the right to elect bargaining representatives (labor unions) for the purpose of bargaining with the state employer.

  • Require the state to bargain in good faith with any elected representatives over wages, hours, pensions, and other terms and conditions of employment.

  • Extend the (sic) bargaining representatives the right to submit any unresolved disputes to binding arbitration 30 days after the commencement of bargaining.