Push for Amendment Protecting Collective Bargaining Launches in Michigan

By: Lindsay Veremis Email
By: Lindsay Veremis Email

A push to protect collective bargaining in Michigan officially launched on Tuesday.

Union workers and others opposed to "Right to Work" laws have now begun gathering signatures to force a change to the state constitution. They want collective bargaining to be guaranteed in Michigan.

Supporters of a constitutional amendment will need to gather more than 300,000 signatures by July to get the amendment on the November ballot.

The push is part of a pre-emptive strike from unions, on what they see as a seige on middle class workers.

Unions say the amendment goes beyond "Right to Work" but "Right to Work" is a large part of the discussion. Supporters wanted to act before Michigan lawmakers introduce legislation that would make it illegal to force someone to join a union and pay dues as a condition of employment.

"The political environment is very anti-worker right now and that's why we feel the need to put a constitutional amendment to guarantee that our voice is continually heard," teacher Jeff Bean said.

Those behind the campaign say there's more than 80 pending bills in the legislature that will erode workers rights, and another from State Representative Mike Shirkey that would make Michigan the 24th right to work state.

Supporters danced around questions about exactly what the amendment would do if enacted, but did say it would likely nullify any "Right to Work" legislation.

As written, it guarantees the right to form, join or assist labor organizations and to bargain collectively with a public or private employer. It would also prevent lawmakers from restricting collective bargaining.

"I was surprised that the union leadership and union bosses have decided to take this approach," Shirkey said.

The Clarklake Republican isn't worried about the push. In fact, he thinks it will help Michigan become a worker's choice state.

Jared Rodriguez, with West Michigan Policy Forum, says the constortium of business leaders will fight the amendment. They believe unions have ulterior motives.

"They're scared, they're scared because they will have to provide a higher level of service to their members than what they've had to do before," Rodriguez said. "The union is all about protecting the bosses, they're the ones with the six figure salaries."

Supporters of the amendment maintain it's about the workers.

"I don't know who wouldn't sign somthing like this, because a strong middle class benefits every level of Michigan," Bean said.

Volunteers with "Protect our Jobs" the group behind the amendment, say they've already collected a number of signatures, though they couldn't say how many.

They plan to be circulating petitions across the state Wednesday.

Governor Synder has said he doesn't want to consider any "Right to Work" legislation this year.

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