There are many Michigan political pundits who believe that recent ballot proposals, namely Proposal 2, baited the fury of corporate giants and conservative politicians ultimately sending right-to-work bills charging through the legislature this week before ending up on Gov. Rick Snyder’s deck, where he hastily signed them.
For someone who didn’t have RTW on his agenda, critics argue, Snyder sure didn’t waste any time cheerfully supporting the measure that would allow workers to opt out of paying union dues while still claiming the same wages and benefits negotiated by the union contracts governing their workplace.
So let’s take this back a bit. It may seem like a distant memory, but on November 6, we all voted and since an overwhelming majority of us Michiganders are not unionized to begin with, unions lost a multi-million dollar gamble. With all the money they poured into ballot proposal campaigns like Prop. 2, which would have engrained collective bargaining into he state’s constitution it was a big loss for for the union shop.
That’s the thing about gambling. There are no guarantees. If you play big, you lose big. And that’s exactly what happened to organized labor’s bet on a union-supporting electorate.
Analysts are saying it was fail for labor on two fronts: First, it showed how union backed measures are not widely supported by voters and second, it made conservative decision-makers real mad.
But if we take a closer look, the ballot gambit is not the only thing unions have failed. Proponents of the RTW laws argue that it passed because the unions have failed on many fronts in a post- WWII era: They have failed to beef up membership, failed the public through stolid self-service and ultimately will fail themselves in the absence of creative new structures to adapt to the changing world.
Bill Ballenger, editor of Inside Michigan Politics quoted Emerson in his opinion on the matter: "There's an old saying that goes, 'If you strike at a king, you better kill him.'"
Well, if Snyder is a king and Prop. 2 was a strike, it missed. And now unions are up the proverbial creek.
Lansing political consultant Mark Grebner told Metro Times’ Curt Guyette that a "cold war" between the Synder administration and labor ended with the recent union-backed ballot measures aimed directly at the state constitution. Grebner compared the ballot measures to the Japan bombing Peal Harbor:
"When one side starts shooting, the other side doesn't feel constrained to try and keep the peace. It might have seemed like a good idea at the time, but it didn't turn out so good for [unions]."
But there is a silver lining here. For the sake of staying in the game, unions have got some strategizing to do. With the downtrend in organized labor over the past 30 plus years, isn’t a little re-organized labor in order?
As of now, unions have no strategy to reach remote workers like me, someone who essayist Jack Lessenberry describes as “the knowledge worker banging the keyboard in her lonely apartment as an independent contractor.”
Labor has herded catlike workers before and maybe it’s blind optimism but with the right leadership and intellectual power, it will be the force it once was.
Still, the fact will always remain: Win some, lose some, there will always be the political push and pull between labor and business.
Public-Private Partnerships? There’s a Prop. For That
With all of the ballot proposals cluttering the 2012 ballot in Michigan this year—especially Detroit—we can pick just about any hot political topic and confidently say (much like iPhone applications), “there’s a proposal for that.”
One of the hot-button issues is the public-private partnership. These gray lines between private and public dollars and control have become more common in Detroit as the city struggles to fend off bankruptcy or State management amid a financial crisis.
So as the October 1 deadline to transfer Detroit’s Department of Health and Wellness Promotion to a private nonprofit approaches, let’s dig through the pile and see which proposals apply to these.
There is a couple. One of them is Proposal 2, an amendment to the state constitution that would engrave collective bargaining rights into state law. Those way, if a union-run city department gets transferred, guess who has the legal power to stop it?
The other is Proposal P, a Detroit measure that would amend the city charter to allow elected officials and employees to work for a private contractor with the city. In light of recent city hall scandals, the charter was revised to ban such movement, mandating a one-year interim period before a private company contracted by the City can hire for contract a former city employee.
Obviously, Proposal P has its issues. It blurs the line between public and private a little more than it’s already been blurred and without the proper controls could open the floodgates to more corruption, but as the city budget crunches and shifts services into private operations, it’s needed if city employee have any chance of keeping or finding a new job with the city.
Of course, this is creating kickback from unions, but it’s happening: public funds are drying up and services crumbling and private companies and organizations are there to catch them. In a lot of ways it makes sense.
Detroit is the only city in Michigan with health and wellness services on the payroll. Come October, that will change.
"The city has to increase its efficiencies in providing these services, and we've got to do a better job of making sure our citizens get the support services they need," Bing said in a statement.
As far as proposals go, Michigan's Proposal 2 would make such public-private transfers harder on a statewide level and Detroit’s Proposal P would make such city transfers a bit smoother, at least in terms of re-hiring those displaced by the public-private switch.
Digital Daily Signup
Sign up now for the Michigan Chronicle Digital Daily newsletter!
- Mike Duggan announces official run for mayor (1)
- Detroit gears up for historic March on Woodward celebration (1)
- UPDATE: Election commission decides to keep Duggan on the ballot (1)
- African Americans Must be a part of Detroit New Development Growth (1)
- 'Real Housewives of Atlanta' Porsha Stewart Locked Out By Husband Kordell? [Video} (2)