Traverse City Record-Eagle

March 26, 2013

Walker and Schmidt divided on union deals

By MICHAEL WALTON mwalton@record-eagle.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Local Republican lawmakers offered differing views on proposed legislation that would cut state aid to public universities if they settle labor contracts that include mandatory union fees and dues before right-to-work legislation becomes law on Thursday.

The proposed bill would penalize schools like the University of Michigan and Wayne State University, unless the contract agreements result in at least 10 percent savings.

The proposal could cost U-M, which reached tentative five-year agreements this month with its nurses and lecturers unions, $41 million and WSU, which recently reached an eight-year agreement with its faculty union, $27.5 million.

State Sen. Howard Walker, R-Traverse City, supports right-to-work legislation, but said he respects local organizations negotiating agreements within the confines of the law.

“In a broad context, I am falling on the side of this issue is being more about local control than right-to-work,” Walker said.

State Rep. Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City, said the proposed sanctions are about making sure long-term contracts reduce long-term costs, regardless of whether they preserve union dues and fees.

“It might seem a little heavy-handed, but if you are not getting savings, maybe this is warranted,” he said.