The Michigan Constitution of 1963 (and that of 1908 as well) gives the state Civil Service Commission (CSC) the authority to set the terms of employment for state workers. Prior to 1980, collective bargaining by state employees was not allowed. Since 1980 the CSC has allowed collective bargaining, but that right is not written into statute or the Constitution.
While collective bargaining is allowed, the CSC determines which issues are and are not subject to negotiation. The CSC essentially establishes the issues which may be negotiated, then turns over the actual bargaining to the Office of the State Employer. If the contracts contain provisions excluded from bargaining, the CSC can and does strike them from the contract. There are no examples of the CSC having rejected wage and benefit settlements, although it retains the prerogative. And when parties reach an impasse, the CSC has the authority to set the terms of a contract. Unions contend that the Commission’s authority skews the process so as to limit settlements that otherwise might be negotiated.
State employees are prohibited by CSC rule from striking. Unions say that this creates an uneven playing field, because their “big gun” in wage and benefit negotiations can’t be used. On the other hand, State of Michigan employees in most categories earn above the national average for state workers, and are generally considered to have generous wage and benefit packages by private sector standards as well. This is especially true when job security is considered. It does not appear that state workers have suffered any loss of earning power due to the no-strike rule, and no union has made a claim to the contrary.
Significantly, under its authority to determine which issues are subject to negotiation, the Civil Service Commission has prohibited bargaining over whether and how much of state government services will be performed by state employees, versus contracted out to private firms (privatized). In 1991, a new governor came to Lansing seeking to privatize more state services. Unions have worked vigorously ever since to pass legislation limiting privatization, with little success. (For examples see House Bill 6088, Rivet Amendment to House Bill 5643, Plakas Amendment to House Bill 5467, etc.) On the other hand, the amount of actual privatization has been far less than its boosters had hoped. Nevertheless, unions would like to limit the practice and any expansion of it by prohibiting it in the collective bargaining contracts of state employees.
Proposal 02-3 would amend the Constitution in a way that potentially dilutes the Civil Service Commission’s authority to control collective bargaining by state employees. It would do so by making collective bargaining an absolute right of state employees, and also give employees (but not the state) the power to compel binding arbitration in the case of labor negotiation impasses.
How much authority the arbitrator would have to resolve contract disputes and impose settlements in areas other than wage and benefits is not addressed by the proposal, and would likely be decided by the courts. The provisions of the Constitution giving the CSC final authority in state employment areas are not amended. That is why the Commission’s authority to control areas of negotiation is “potentially” diluted.
Proposal 02-3 is sponsored by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union (AFSCME) and the United Auto Workers (UAW), who drafted it and paid for the petition circulators.
For more details see:
The Civil Service Commission -- an overview
Binding arbitration -- an overview