For some two decades, Project Labor Agreements, or PLAs, have enabled unions in various states to dictate hiring for large-scale, taxpayer-funded construction projects. In Michigan, at least, this labor monopoly has been thwarted. On September 6, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit upheld a Michigan law, Public Act 238, enacted last year to bar the use of government-mandated PLAs. The legislation was a response to a lower court ruling in favor of the Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council, an AFL-CIO affiliate. The latest ruling marks a second major victory this year for the open shop; New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie in April vetoed a bill that would have mandated PLAs for coastal-area reconstruction in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
Few things mobilize unions more than the prospect of passage of a Right to Work law in a given state. This reality of labor politics also applies to the aftermath. Just hours ago, a group of unions filed an appeal with the Michigan Supreme Court to overturn an August 15 ruling by a state Court of Appeals that public-sector Right to Work legislation, passed in December, applies to state civil service employees. That decision, for the time being, freed roughly 36,000 Michigan state government workers from worrying about losing their jobs because they refuse to pay financial tribute to a union.
And now there are two dozen. This Tuesday, December 11, the Michigan House of Representatives passed, and Governor Rick Snyder signed, a pair of laws designed to protect employees from having to pay dues (or "agency fees" in lieu of joining) to a union in order to keep their jobs. The measures, one each applying to the private and public sector, make Michigan the nation's 24th state with "Right to Work" legislation. "We are moving forward on the topic of workplace fairness and equality," stated Gov. Snyder during an evening press conference following passage. Unions are taking the opposite view. About 12,500 opponents showed up at the State Capitol Building in Lansing to protest, with about 2,500, many of them shouting slogans, jamming the interior.
Last Tuesday's elections on most fronts represented a major setback for advocates of limited government. Yet it did produce its successes, most significantly, in Michigan. Voters in that state, by an unofficial 58 to 42 percent margin, rejected an initiative to authorize public employee unions, with few exceptions, to override existing and future state and local laws that "abridge, impair or limit" union collective bargaining rights. The measure, called Proposal 2 or the ‘Protect Our Jobs Amendment' (POJA), would have amended the Michigan constitution to provide almost unlimited opportunities for union officials to file court challenges against what they see as unfavorable legislation.
It's known formally as ‘Proposal 2' and informally as the ‘Protect Our Jobs Amendment,' or POJA. However phrased, it describes a Michigan voter initiative this November that would trigger a union power grab that is unprecedented in any state. The measure seeks to amend the state constitution to grant government employee unions the authority, with few exceptions, to invalidate existing and future laws that "abridge, impair or limit" collective bargaining rights. Organized labor effectively would obtain pocket veto authority, via the courts, over elected state and local representatives.