Court of Appeals Says Union Power Grab Should Be on Ballot

Opponents say they will appeal to State Supreme Court

The case will be appealed to the Supreme Court.

The Michigan Court of Appeals ruled Monday that the so-called “Protect Our Jobs” ballot proposal should be put on the Nov. 6 statewide ballot.

A motion will be filed immediately asking the State Supreme Court to overrule the lower court, said Gary Gordon, the attorney for Citizens Protecting Michigan's Constitution, the coalition of business groups opposing the proposal.

The State Supreme Court can be expected to do one of three things.

  • It could refuse to address the issue, which would result in the proposal being put on the ballot;
  • It could address the issue and uphold the Court of Appeals, which would also result in the proposal being placed on the ballot; or
  • It could overturn the lower court decision and prevent the proposal from being placed on the ballot.

"We are confident that the Supreme Court will agree with the Board of Canvassers, the Attorney General, the Governor and residents across the state — Michigan voters deserve honesty and transparency at the ballot box and from the start this deceptive proposal has not given them either," said Rich Studley, president and CEO of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce. "We will continue the fight on behalf of Michigan residents to protect Michigan's Constitution."

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Whatever the high court decides, it must act quickly. Aug. 27 was the deadline the Secretary of State had recommended the courts adhere to regarding this year's ballot proposal rulings. All the proposals that are going to appear on the statewide ballot need to be ready by Sept. 7 so that absentee ballots can be printed.

A coalition of unions is backing the proposal with at least $8 million.

"The court ruling is a disappointment and may allow special interests to fundamentally change how Michigan is governed," said F. Vincent Vernuccio, director of labor policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. "If the amendment passes, union contracts would supersede many state laws.

"It is also noteworthy that some supporters of the amendment are attempting to bully the Supreme Court before the case has even been heard," Vernuccio said. "Over the weekend, Gongwer News Service reported that several 'Democratic sources' threatened to use the money already raised for the ballot proposal against Supreme Court justices who are up for re-election if the court does not put the proposal on the ballot. While supporters have a First Amendment right to spend money on elections, this is a clear attempt to get the justices to stop considering the law and to start considering the politics. This should not be tolerated."

If passed, the proposal would pre-empt Michigan from ever becoming a right-to-work state. Under right-to-work laws, employees are given the freedom to choose if they want to pay dues or fees to a union.

In addition, if adopted, it is estimated the proposal could repeal — to varying degrees —about 170 Michigan laws and numerous parts of the state constitution.

Opponents of the proposal say it should not be placed on the ballot because it would do too many different things to be adequately described in the 100 words or less required for ballot language. In addition, opponents also say the proposal failed to identify every portion of the State Constitution it would affect.

However, in 2-to-1 decision, the three-judge Court of Appeals panel, disagreed.

Presiding Court of Appeals Judge Donald Owens and Judge Ronayne Krause ruled in part:

“ . . . if an effect is held to be enough to trigger the republication requirement, the courts would be adding an undue burden to the initiative process not mandated by the constitution.  The constitution, statutes, and case law control and preclude us from adding an additional hurdle, particularly a requirement never contemplated by the framers, to the people's right to amend their constitution."

Judge Peter D. O'Connell disagreed, arguing that the proposal, "drastically abrogates, alters, and nullifies numerous existing provisions of our constitution." He also said the petition that was circulated for the collection of signatures "does not inform the voters of these drastic changes.

". . .the proposal should not be placed on the ballot," O'Connell said.

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