The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, June 22, 2012

Judge overturns GOP law blocking dues deductions

By The Building Tradesman

LANSING – The courts are tossing up roadblocks to stop at least some of the Republican agenda against organized labor in Michigan.

In February, federal District Judge Victoria Roberts overturned Public Act 98, a GOP-backed law that outlaws the use of project labor agreements on local- and state-funded construction projects. Roberts said federal labor law superceded the state law.

On June 5, federal Judge Denise Page Hood blocked implementation of Public Act 53, an anti-union law aimed at prohibiting payroll deduction of union dues for school employees.

“We are gratified to hear that this unfair and punitive law has been put on hold,” said David Hecker, president of American Federation of Teachers-Michigan. “PA 53 singled out school employees for retaliation and does absolutely nothing to improve education for Michigan students. Voters are getting more and more upset with Lansing politicians who appear more interested in attacking teachers than getting Michigan back on track.”

PA 53 was passed by the Republican legislature and signed by Gov. Rick Snyder in March. In issuing the injunction, Judge Hood said the law was likely to be found unconstitutional.

“This legislation furthers the goal of good government by promoting greater transparency and ensuring that public resources are used solely for their intended purposes,” said Gov. Rick Snyder when the legislation was signed into law. “It is essential that state public school resources be devoted to the education of our children. This continues the fiscal reforms designed to save schools money and help them operate even more efficiently.”

Added Ari Adler, spokesman for House Speaker Jase Bolger, R-Marshall: “PA 53 was designed to protect school districts and educators. Schools should not be serving as collection agencies between unions and their members. In addition, the educators in this state are better off when unions have to regularly prove their value to members instead of just presuming everything is fine because the money keeps rolling in automatically.”

However, a review by the House Fiscal Agency said the law won’t save money, and may cost some districts money to enact the change. Republicans killed an amendment to let unions reimburse school districts for any costs involved in deducting dues. And the Michigan Education Association wondered why teachers unions were singled out for this law. There’s much speculation that PA 53 was in response to teachers’ unions backing the successful recall of the chairman of the House Education Committee, Paul Scott (R-Grand Blanc).

“This bill from day one was about political retribution,” said Doug Pratt, spokesman for the Michigan Education Association. “It’s not about saving school districts money. It’s not about improving accountability for unions. We’re already accountable to our members. We’re already transparent.”