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Labor Takes Lumps in Michigan

Home - by - November 13, 2012 - 16:15 America/New_York - 10 Comments


Michigan voters rejected two union-backed efforts to amend that state’s constitution on Tuesday despite heavy spending by big labor and a largely unionized population.

Government employees unions led by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) proposed two amendments to the state constitution that would have made collective bargaining a constitutional right (Proposition 2) and forced family members that care for disabled relatives into the union (Proposition 4).

Despite the fact that the state’s workforce is 17.5 percent unionized—about 50 percent higher than the national average, according to a 2011 Bureau of Labor Statistics study, the most recent available—Proposition 2 lost 58 percent to 42 percent and Proposition 4 lost 57 percent to 43 percent.

“This was the number one union issue on the ballot aside from the president, but voters are resoundingly supporting labor reforms, even as voters are resoundingly accepting Obama,” said Vincent Vernuccio, a labor policy expert at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

Republican Gov. Richard Snyder began enacting public sector pay and benefit reforms when he assumed office in 2011 in order to curb a $1.7 billion budget deficit he inherited from Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm and the government retirement system set to run dry by 2023.

Snyder backed a number of labor reform packages, including the elimination of “last-in, first-out” policies that forces school districts to lay off teachers by seniority regardless of performance.

He also successfully raised teacher pension contributions to 3 percent from zero. This move is projected to save the state $15 billion over 30 years. Snyder even opposed the forced unionization of home healthcare workers unions set out to protect in Proposition 4—a practice that has generated more than $32 million for SEIU since 2005.

“They [the unions] were responding to direct attacks to unions by the legislature and Republicans; they decided to do an end around the legislature,” said Bob McCann, spokesman for Michigan Senate Democratic Leader and prospective gubernatorial candidate Gretchen Whitmer.

The amendments accounted for $60 million of the $141 million spent on ballot initiatives in 2012, according to the Michigan Campaign Finance Network. That money helped fuel an onslaught of television advertising. Two of those ads were 30-second spots featuring firefighters and cops telling voters that their lives could be at risk without collective bargaining.

“This air pack I’m wearing gives me 30 minutes to look inside your burning home and find you,” Lincoln Park Firefighter Mike Hendricks tells the camera through his air mask. “[Collective bargaining] means we negotiate for gear we need to protect your lives and ours.”

Vernuccio says the unions overplayed their hand with such advertisements. The vast majority of collective bargaining is concentrated on securing higher pay and benefits to members.



  1. even steven

    November 13th, 2012

    I can’t stand goonions. I avoid doing business with goonionized companies whenever I can, and I want goonions out of my government.

    Thumb up +8

  2. BILL

    November 13th, 2012

    that makes the recent obama win even more suspect, when even union members in a large union state know that goose that laid the golden egg has died.

    Thumb up +6

  3. Troy

    November 13th, 2012

    “This air pack I’m wearing gives me 30 minutes to look inside your burning home and find you,”

    You mean after Card-check passes and you find out I voted against the union, and a union thug set my house on fire?

    Noteworthy Comment Thumb up +10

  4. Buffalobob

    November 13th, 2012

    The lies that the union goons spread are limitless. “This air pack only gives me 30 min to search for you”. True but also true is the fact the firefighter would be rotated out well before that 30 min of air ran out for his and his brothers safety.

    Thumb up +4

  5. Unneutral

    November 13th, 2012

    Collective bargaining for public unions should be outlawed everywhere.

    Noteworthy Comment Thumb up +10

  6. Aufklarer

    November 13th, 2012

    I live here in Michigan. The state is schizophrenic. We vote against this union takeover, then vote for D’ohBama. We have Republican (including LOTS of RINOs) control of the state house and senate, as well as the governor’s office, then vote against emergency financial managers for Detroit and other “fiscally challenged” cities like Detroit. Makes no sense.

    Noteworthy Comment Thumb up +10

  7. ReardonMettle

    November 13th, 2012

    “This was the number one union issue on the ballot aside from the president, but voters are resoundingly supporting labor reforms, even as voters are resoundingly accepting Obama.”


    “The Obama voter fraud machine couldn’t walk and chew gum at the same time.”

    Thumb up +5

  8. scr_north

    November 13th, 2012

    I suspect the fireman’s comment about unions being about negotiating for the public’s lives is more accurate then he thinks. If we don’t pay them whatever they ask for our lives are in danger when they strike. The fire and police unions are becoming more and more UAW-like every day.

    Thumb up +6

  9. muddjuice (Absolutist)

    November 14th, 2012

    I also live in MI. West MI. The *Alamo of Conservatism in MI.

    This election made no sense to me. How is it that voters in MI rejected all attempts to mess with their State Constitution but then elected a guy federally who completely disregards the US Constitution?

    A “pro-union” State votes overwhelmingly against unions but votes a pro-union man as President.

    If you look at a map of counties in MI, most are red. Except Detroit, Flint, Lansing, Battle Creek and other resort destinations.

    There’s only one way to fix this. Presidential elections, hence forth, should be decided by who wins the most counties in each State. If you win the majority of counties in a State, you win the State’s electoral votes….

    * No disrespect intended to the real Alamo!

    Thumb up +1

  10. LawrenceEkdahl

    November 14th, 2012

    As a former Michigander, I was glad to see Michigan. Especially turn a little to the right.
    Especially freezing some of the union power.
    T bad they couldn’t see beyond the deception of Obama.

    Thumb up +1