The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, August 17, 2012

AG: Protect Our Jobs language conflicts with Constitution, should be rejected

By Marty Mulcahy, Editor

LANSING – An analysis of the Protect Our Jobs proposal by Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has concluded that the labor-backed ballot initiative contains so many “Trojan horse-style” repeals and revisions of the state Constitution that it should be rejected.

Given the hyper-partisan climate in our state capitol, it’s an analysis that shouldn’t surprise anyone.

Schuette, a Republican, issued his analysis at the behest of fellow GOP’er, Gov. Rick Snyder, who will use the attorney general’s report to bolster his own stance that the ballot issue should not go forward.

Schuette, in a July 20 memo to Snyder that was released Aug. 3, concluded the union-backed Protect Our Jobs ballot initiative conflicts with 18 current sections of the state Constitution, including the state Legislature’s powers to spend and the governor’s authority to organize the executive branch.

The analysis says the ballot issue would be unconstitutional and it would be “incongruous” for the Board of State Canvassers to allow it onto the November ballot. The state Constitution requires that ballot proposals should be communicated in no more than 100 words, and this effort fails in that area, Scheutte said. The AG’s conclusion fits hand-in-glove with the strategy of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and other business interests, who have vowed to throw up every roadblock possible to prevent the measure from getting on the ballot.

Counters Dan Lijana, a spokesman for Protect Our Jobs: “Nearly 700,000 Michigan citizens signed a petition to place this initiative on the ballot, more than double what is required by state law. Silencing the voice of all voters on the basis of a faulty legal argument defies the spirit of democracy and protections offered to citizens by our Constitution.”

If it is approved by voters on the Nov. 6 statewide ballot, the Protect Our Jobs initiative would:

  • Establish the people’s rights to organize to form, join or assist unions and to bargain collectively with public or private employers regarding wages, hours and other terms and conditions of employment.
  • Prohibit employers from retaliating against their employees for exercising those rights.
  • Prohibit state and local governments from interfering with those rights.
  • Authorize the state to restrict or prohibit public employee strikes.
  • Protect current laws establishing minimum wages, hours and working conditions.
  • Prohibit government from interfering with agreements respecting employees’ financial support of their union.
  • Grant state civil service employees’ collective bargaining rights.

The initiative would also ban the Legislature from making Michigan a right-to-work state and repeal a bevy of laws that took away rights for workers.

The Board of State Canvassers, a panel of two Republicans and two Democrats, is expected to take Scheutte’s analysis into account and meet before the end of August to decide whether this and six other initiatives to amend the state’s Constitution should be placed on the Nov. 6 ballot. A deadlocked 2-2 vote with the Protect Our Jobs initiative would certainly end up in front of the courts.

Meanwhile, the state’s big business community and their friends have taken to the airwaves with the first of what will undoubtedly be an onslaught of ads attacking the Protect Our Jobs amendment to the constitution. One of the other ballot questions would outlaw the imposition of state emergency financial managers on local communities. The first round of ads, sponsored by “Citizens Protecting Michigan’s Constitution,” says this and other ballot propositions are the work of union “bosses” trying to increase their power.