The Need for Executive Action By the Governor

Michigan citizens have been a catalyst in establishing Constitutional protections in this area of law (both Abood and Lehnert were Michigan cases); yet, these hard won rights are going almost unrealized because of the lack of information available to employees working under compulsory union arrangements. It is time to make workers aware of their rights under applicable Supreme Court decisions and to make it possible for them to exercise these rights freely. Unions, the NLRB, the current national administration, and employers have kept workers uninformed of their basic civil and human rights. The situation is unlikely to change and it warrants executive branch leadership and attention.

Governor Engler should intervene with an Executive Order. The order should notify state public employees (including school employees) and private employees working for contractors on state-funded projects of their statutory and First Amendment Constitutional rights to limit dues payment to collective bargaining functions. President George Bush’s 1992 Executive Order mandated that federal contractors post notices at their work sites informing union members of their Beck rights. Governor Engler should follow suit as a practical and effective way to protect the rights of Michigan citizens.

The Governor, acting as Chief Executive Officer of Michigan, has the Constitutional authority in Article V, Sections 1, 2 and 8 and the Michigan State Constitution to require the posting of Beck information notices on all public and private workplaces throughout the state. This Executive Order would not seek to change the laws, but rather to implement the laws according to statutory and U.S. Constitutional dictates. No separation of powers problem is presented.

An Executive Order is a legitimate, responsible, and necessary exercise of gubernatorial authority. 57  President Bush’s Executive Order 12800 could be used as a model for an Executive Order issued by the Governor, but Governor Engler should also direct MERC to implement a policy to further carry out his directives. MERC should prepare for this by standardizing its policy to inform workers of their rights pursuant to the proper Supreme Court precedents, and the agency should further develop written materials that can inform and assist workers attempting to exercise their rights to reduced dues.

An Executive Order protecting the political freedom of Michigan workers would establish Michigan as a "beacon of light" for the rest of the United States. It would build upon and support the recent 1994 Michigan state legislation amending the Michigan Corporate Campaign Finance Act requiring labor unions to obtain affirmative annual consent from union members before automatically deducting political contributions from employee payrolls. 58  This law is now in operation as a result of the approval of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. 59  Governor Engler is reported to have praised the ruling as an extension of "worker democracy." 60 

Governor Engler’s intervention in the Beck arena would undoubtedly be an extension of worker democracy. Some special interests might complain that this is harassment, but those who experience the real harassment and obstruction are Michigan workers who try to exercise their right to refuse to fund political causes with which they disagree. Any question of whether they would exercise a Beck right can be settled right here in Michigan.