Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Friday

October 26, 2012

Proposal 2 highlights labor-business split

Editor's note: This is one in a series of analyses concerning the Nov. 6 ballot issues from Bridge Magazine, a publication of the Center for Michigan

Michigan has been the scene of historic, sometimes bloody, battles between organized labor and management.

Proposal 2 — the ballot effort to include collective bargaining rights in the Michigan Constitution — has lacked physical confrontation. But there's plenty of bad blood between labor unions, which put the measure on the November ballot, and business groups that vehemently oppose it.

"It's a fascinating response to what happened in Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio," Roland Zullo, assistant research scientist at the University of Michigan's Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations, said about the proposal.

Governors and lawmakers in those states have moved aggressively to limit collective bargaining rights and, in Indiana, eliminate union membership as a condition of employment.

Gov. Rick Snyder has been less confrontational in his approach. But he and the Legislature enacted a number of laws, such as outlawing employment benefits for same-sex partners of public workers and requiring government employees to pay 20 percent of their health insurance premiums, that unions oppose.

In addition, Republican lawmakers earlier this year were threatening to introduce Right to Work legislation that would prohibit union membership and payment of union dues as a condition of employment. In response, unions collected enough signatures to put Proposal 2 on the ballot. Opponents concede that passage of the constitutional amendment would block any attempt to enact Right to Work in Michigan.

They also claim it would nullify 170 state laws and cost taxpayers as much as $1.6 billion a year by undoing Snyder administration reforms that have boosted Michigan's economic competitiveness.

"We believe all of that is under attack in November in Proposal 2," said Jared Rodriguez, president of the West Michigan Policy Forum, a group of Grand Rapids-area business leaders. "We believe this is union bosses trying to roll back the clock on Michigan."

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