Unions went for broke in Michigan and they lost big time.
Michigan voters soundly defeated a measure that would have given public-sector unions a potent tool to challenge any law –past, present or future — limiting their benefits and powers. It would also have permanently barred Michigan from becoming a right-to-work state where payment of dues is no longer required as a condition of employment in unionized companies.
Will this defeat now open the right-to-work floodgates?
Although both sides raised a whopping $20-plus million for their campaigns, ultimately the proposal lost by a wide margin because of opposition across the political spectrum. Both theDetroit News and the Detroit Free Press, the state’s flagship conservative and liberal papers respectively, counseled a “no”vote. The Free Press, usually an ardent supporter of collective-bargaining rights, concluded: “Michigan just can’t afford those kinds of limitations in an era when debt from pension and health obligations to current and retired employees are pushing many local governments to the brink of insolvency.”
All of this would have rung the death knell for the last two years of fiscal reforms by Governor Rick Snyder, a moderate Republican, paving the way for future tax increases on individuals and businesses. This would have been economically devastating for Michigan, which went into a recession several years before the rest of the country — and is only now beginning to post a slow recovery. Its unemployment is still about a point above the national average.
The unions may wish they had never overplayed their hand in this battle. They were field-testing a strategy to take back existing right-to-work states that allow legislative action through ballot referendums.