This Should Get Their Attention

Detroit Mayor suspends dues collection for city unions

The Detroit Free Press is reporting that the City of Detroit has stopped collecting dues on behalf of 16 unions that have yet to reach new agreements with the city of Detroit.  This is a provocative but much-needed step that serves to discipline city employee unions.  While exact numbers of employees covered are not available, this action covers AFSCME, one of the largest unions in city government which covers several bargaining units, as well as the Amalgamated Transit Union representing city bush drivers.  The city sent notice of its intentions back on October 9, giving the unions involved 10 days to agree to terms.

Ordinarily the city would not be able to take this action, but as we explained earlier on this blog the contracts between the city and many of its unions have formally expired and are being continued on a day-to-day basis.  In effect, Mayor Bing has announced that he is not continuing the extension of the old contracts between the city and these sixteen unions.  Wages and benefits will not be affected immediately, although in the future the Mayor could attempt to implement the terms of his final offer, effectively imposing wage cuts.

This is not a trivial action; typical union dues are over $450 per worker annually so city unions that are covered by this decision could conceivably miss out on tens of thousands of dollars every week in union dues until new contracts are signed.

It is interesting to note that Bing’s decision temporarily puts city workers in roughly the same position that they would be if the state were to enact a right-to-work law: union dues and fees are optional rather than mandatory.  Workers should not be forced to support a union as a condition of employment, so this is a welcome development even if it is likely to be short-lived.

See also "Fix Public Employee Law to Avoid City Bankruptcies," "Bing's Gambit," and "Michigan's Public Employee Relations Act: Public-Sector Labor Law and Its Consequences."