Lawmakers Threaten Universities Extending Contracts for RTW

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LANSING (WILX)-- Some universities and unions have been rushing to sign new long-term contracts before the right-to-work law takes effect.
It's all legal, any contracts signed before March 28th aren't subject to the new law. Meaning workers can still be forced to pay union dues.

Some republicans aren't happy about it saying the universities and unions are just trying to get around the law.

"If this was something normal we wouldn't be asking. Normal is two to three years. Nobodies seen an eight year contract at a university," said Republican House Represenative Tom McMillin.

McMillin's just one of the lawmakers calling the extended contracts fiscally irresponsible, saying they were passed to benefit unions not employees or taxpayers.

Republicans are looking at Wayne State and the University of Michigan in particular.

"Wayne State passed a eight year contract that provides raises over five years or so. There's not necessarily anyone that can point to any particular savings the university has gotten out of extending the contract longer than usual," said Republican Press Secretary Ari Adler.

Even though the contracts are legal, the House Education Appropriations Subcommittee passed a bill cutting their state funding by 15% unless the deals results in 10% savings for the schools.

"This is about looking out for the taxpayers. Making sure the money we're investing that was given to us by taxpayers is being spent wisely and responsibly," said Adler.

But an MSU professor thinks it's small minded.

"We are talking about a few thousand employee's and the penalties are very large. There was not a violation of the law so this would be a retrospective law. They would be penalized for what they have done," said Professor Dale Belman.

A 15% cut wouldn't be small. It would mean 27-million dollars for Wayne State and more than 40-million for U-of-M. That loss could be passed onto students in the form of higher tuition.

Governor Snyder doesn't have a problem with the contracts, if they include savings for the universities.

"In my view if someone has gotten real value in arms length negotiation that's the way the system works. If it was to simply to change things with no substance, to allow people to stay under contract that's a separate question," said Snyder.

The Education Appropriations Subcommittee did hear what the universities had to say before members made their decision. The bill will be presented to the Appropriations Committee before it reaches the House.

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