Anyone who is particularly surprised by the MEA's decision to file a lawsuit to block implementation of HB 4929 really doesn't understand the character of the union establishment that has developed in this state. The legal details are a little novel; the basic thrust of what the union is doing is anything but. As we've explained before, the MEA in particular has benefitted from a labor law that empowers government unions at the expense of taxpayers. Meaningful reform means limiting or reducing their power. One can expect government unions to fight back aggressively against any attempt to rein them in, and as I said months ago, no limit on union power is modest or reasonable enough to gain the unions' acceptance.
So when the administration and the legislature embarked on their effort to draw up modest reforms to get government budgets in balance without stirring up too much controversy, Michiganders wished them good luck. They do deserve credit for the good work they've done, but you kinda had to figure something like this was gonna happen.
HB 4929 says that local school districts and their HR departments can no longer deduct union dues from the paychecks of teachers or other school employees. Those school employees still owe union dues (or agency fees if they happen to not be union members), but the unions have to collect them on their own — a hassle, but hardly the end of the union movement.
The MEA, which is used to having its dues money collected for it by the school district, is crying foul. This is in line with how the unions have responded to pretty much everything else that the legislature has done: there is a legal challenge to legislation that would end the legally questionable unionization of graduate students at the University of Michigan, the SEIU is preparing a ballot initiative to reinstate their medicare dues skim, there will be a ballot proposal that will take away the authority of emergency managers to undo collective bargaining agreements, and of course there is the "Protect Our Jobs" initiative that will lock collective bargaining into the state constitution and put union contracts beyond the legislature's reach forever. There are hardly any limits that Michigan's government unions are willing to live under.
The twist, such as it is, is the union's official explanation for having the law overturned. They argue that the legislature is picking on public school teachers unions by passing a law that only applies to government-run schools. A court in Wisconsin bought a similar story but over the long run this rationale is unlikely to hold up in either state.
This administration and legislature have avoided larger issues like right-to-work, supposedly to avoid a nasty, divisive political fight. The response from the unions has been litigation and the filing of ballot initiatives — in other words, a nasty, divisive political fight. A while ago I compared the process to disarming a bomb and suggested that we might be better off if the governor and legislature just detonated the thing, because in the end there is no safe wire to cut: The smallest changes would set the unions off anyway. The extent of government unions sense of entitlement is something that cannot be easily explained. Some things must be experienced to be fully comprehended. While the whole process may still end well, anyone who is familiar with the government union mindset knows that this isn't going to be pretty.
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