President’s Message:
Will the Union Power-Play Backfire?

It’s said that the martial art of Judo involves using an opponent’s strength and weight against him. Michigan unions used their formidable organizational and financial might to place three proposals on the November ballot, launching a conversation about organized labor’s place in Michigan. That conversation may continue long after Election Day – and may very well backfire on these behemoths of organized labor.

Here’s how it happened. By bankrolling Proposals 1, 2 and 4, the unions instigated a massive public debate on the merits of unionized government. These campaigns guaranteed tens of millions of dollars would be spent by both sides to get voters to think about the cost and quality of unionized schools and state and local government.

Prop 1 gives unions a chance to kill the emergency manager law, through which union contracts can be set aside to bolster fiscally distressed schools and municipalities. Unions want a “no” vote on 1.

Prop 4 is a direct response to the Mackinac Center’s exposure of the SEIU’s indefensible skimming of $32 million (and counting) from home-based caregivers of Medicaid recipients. Prop 4 carves their scheme into the constitution and unions want a “yes” vote on 4. (By the way, they can use most of their ill-gotten $32 million for their campaigns.)

Prop 2 is by far the most important of any that will appear on the ballot. This constitutional amendment completely alters Michigan’s power structure by giving government union contracts the ability to override legislation, past, present and future. It also would make a right-to-work law impossible.

It’s not feasible to estimate the whole cost of putting unions in charge, but we are certain it is a minimum of $1.6 billion annually. Unions want a “yes” vote on 2.

Unions opposed sweeping reforms last year in Ohio and Wisconsin. They swiftly reversed the Ohio results, but voters rebuked unions soundly in Wisconsin by retaining Gov. Scott Walker. Meanwhile, Michigan lawmakers enacted roughly 2/3 of the Wisconsin-style reforms and the state’s economy has started to turn around.

Prop 2 is the unions’ attempt to reverse Michigan’s reforms like they did in Ohio, and simultaneously “Wisconsin-proof” the rest of the country. If Prop 2 wins here, unions will roll it into every state they can. That makes Prop 2 the most important election in the country except for the Presidential.

But unions can’t necessarily control the fire they’ve ignited. By threatening to trump the Legislature with Prop 2, they’ve done more than just rouse opposition to that amendment. They’ve awakened a sleeping giant that may not rest until taxpayers and workers are put ahead of union privileges in Michigan.

We’ve been working on the role of unions for 25 years. Formerly quiet supporters of worker freedom and taxpayer advocates are becoming outspoken. Lawmakers are recalculating their positions. Michigan now borders a right-to-work state. Depending on the election outcome, the time will be ripe for a full-blown debate over union privileges in Michigan, and Prop 2 will be the reason why.

You heard it here first.