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More attacks on organized labor from the Michigan Legislature

February 1, 2012

Yesterday, MLive posted a story about a series of bills that have moved from the House Committee on Oversight, Reform & Ethics to the Michigan House of Representatives, bills that reflect further attacks against working class people and organized labor.

House Bill 5023 would “prohibit strikes by certain public employees; to provide review from disciplinary action with respect thereto; to provide for the mediation of grievances and the holding of elections; to declare and protect the rights and privileges of public employees; to require certain provisions in collective bargaining agreements; and to prescribe means of enforcement and penalties for the violation of the provisions of this act.”

The House Committee on Oversight, Reform & Ethics is a 6-member committee, with the 4 Republicans voting in favor of the proposed legislation and the 2 Democrats voting against. The MLive story claims that the proposed legislation is in part a response to the teacher strike at Central Michigan University last year and is designed to prevent such actions in the future. The right to strike in the US has been under attack since WWII and was dealt a large blow with the passing of the Taft-Hartley Act in 1947. The ability to strike is the only real power that unions have, which is no doubt why House Bill 5023 is on the table.

There are three other House Bills that are part of this package of bills that cleared the House Committee and is headed to the State House for a vote. All three of the additional bills build on the anti-union focus of House Bill 5023.

First, there is House Bill 5024, which states, “An act to create a commission relative to labor disputes, and to prescribe its powers and duties; to provide for the mediation and arbitration of labor disputes, and the holding of elections thereon; to regulate the conduct of parties to labor disputes and to require the parties to follow certain procedures; to regulate and limit the right to strike and picket; to protect the rights and privileges of employees, including the right to organize and engage in lawful concerted activities; to protect the rights and privileges of employers; to make certain acts unlawful; and to prescribe means of enforcement and penalties for violations of this  act.”

House Bill 5025, which deals with the collection of union dues, states, “An act to regulate the time and manner of payment of wages and fringe benefits to employees; to prescribe rights and responsibilities of employers and employees, and the powers and duties of the department of labor; to require keeping of records; to provide for settlement of disputes regarding wages and fringe benefits; to prohibit certain practices by employers; to prescribe penalties and remedies; and to repeal certain acts and parts of acts.”

Lastly, House Bill 5026, which essentially will make it easier for employers to hire people to replace striking workers (what should be referred to as scabs), states, “An act relating to solicitations for employment; to prohibit recruitment of or advertising for employees to take the place of employees engaged in a labor dispute without stating that the employment offered is in place of employees involved in a labor dispute; to prohibit the importation of strikebreakers; and to provide penalties for violations of this act.”

The Michigan Education Association is referring to these bills as anti-union and draconian, but no other major union has as of yet released a statement about these proposed pieces of legislation.

All four of these bills were sponsored by Republicans, with some of those GOP State Legislators adding their names to more than one of these bills. For instance, Rep. Lisa Lyons, who represents Alto, sponsored House Bill 5023, but she also is a co-sponsor to House Bills 5024, 5025 and 5026. Other recent anti-union/anti-worker legislation she has voted for were amending workers’ compensation law and ending domestic partner benefits for public employees.

House Bill 5024 was introduced by Rep. Tom McMillen from Rochester Hills, Michigan. In addition to introducing House Bill 5024 he is a co-sponsor to House Bills 5023 and 50 25. McMillin has also recently voted for ending domestic partner benefits for public employees and amending the worker’s compensation law.

Rep. Earl Poleski introduced House Bill 5025, but is also a co-sponsor of House Bills 5023. House Bill 5026 was introduced by Rep. Amanda Price, who has also co-sponsored House Bills 5023, 5024 and 5025. Price, who represents Park Township in West Michigan, also recently voted for amending the worker’s compensation law and ending domestic partner benefits for public employees.

Other legislators who co-sponsored at lest one of these four bills are Al Pscholka, who is considered one of the masterminds behind the public-park-into-private-golf-resort plan down in Benton Harbor and Dave Agema, who has introduced anti-immigration legislation and was the primary sponsor of the legislation to end domestic partner benefits for state employees.

If we hear of any efforts to fight these anti-union legislative proposals we will update our readers with that information.

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