News Story

'Protect Our Jobs' Amendment Would End Binding Arbitration

Police and fire union contracts would no longer be decided by arbitrary third party

The Protect Our Jobs ballot proposal that seeks to change the state constitution with union-friendly provisions would eliminate a big negotiation tool for public safety unions, according to a Mackinac Center for Public Policy analysis.

If passed, the Protect Our Jobs Amendment would end the practice of binding arbitration. Police and firefighters can't go on strike nor would they have the right to go to an arbitrator during contractual impasses.

The Mackinac Center thinks the Protect Our Jobs Amendment would end binding arbitration, which is also known as Public Act 312. Ending binding arbitration would benefit taxpayers significantly, according to Mackinac Center research. Michigan has considered legislation in the past that would end binding arbitration.

The key section of the proposed constitution-changing amendment is Article I, Section 28, which states: “ bargain collectively is to perform the mutual obligation of the employer and the exclusive representative of the employees to negotiate in good faith regarding wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment and to execute and comply with any agreement reached; but this obligation does not compel either party to agree to a proposal or make a concession.” (emphasis added)

"The radical provisions in POJA would devastate Michigan's economy," said Vincent Vernuccio, labor policy director at the Mackinac Center. "However the one thing the drafters of the amendment, perhaps inadvertently, got correct is banning the binding arbitration provision in PA 312. No longer will unelected bureaucrats write final contracts putting taxpayer on the hook for millions."

City officials have said in the past that arbitrators don't take into consideration the city's ability to pay when making a decision.

In 2009, the city of Ann Arbor faced an $8 million deficit over two years. Then an arbitrator ruled that the city would have to pay police retroactive pay raises dating back to 2006, costing the city another $1.5 million.

In 2006, an arbitrator ruled that the city of Flint must pay Police Sergeant's Union members bonuses totaling $7,350 a piece. Some police sergeants saw their base salary increase 14 percent. All members received additional 2.5 percent increases in each of the two years of the contract. Union contracts played a part in Flint’s financial problems. In 2006, Flint had a $5.9 million surplus, but was $48.1 million in the red just four years later.

Samantha Harkins, director of state affairs for the Michigan Municipal League, said they were still reviewing the amendment and had no comment.

Dan Lijana, spokesman for Protect Our Jobs, and Ed Jacques, a legislative assistant with the Police Officers Association of Michigan, didn't return emails or phone messages seeking comment.


See also:

The 'Protect Our Jobs' Amendment

Union-Backed 'Protect Our Jobs' Ballot Initiative Would Wipe Out Reforms Unions Already Supported

'Protect Our Jobs' Would Make Union Bosses the Most Powerful People in Michigan

'Protect Our Jobs' Would Protect the 3 Percent at the Expense of the 97 Percent