The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, May 12, 2017

News Briefs

By The Building Tradesman

State jobless rate drops; others do too 

Michigan's unemployment rate dropped slightly to 5.1 percent in March - not bad, but other states are doing better.

That's why Michigan's unemployment rate is now among the 10 highest states, for the first time since October 2014. Only New Mexico's (6.7 percent), Alaska's (6.4 percent), Alabama's (5.8 percent) and Louisiana's (5.7 percent) were higher for the prior month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported in late April.

In February Michigan's unemployment rate was 14th highest among the 50 states, but despite a drop of two-tenths of a percent in March, other state's rates dropped even more. The national unemployment rate declined by two-tenths of a percentage point, as well, from 4.7 to 4.5 percent.

Colorado's jobless rate was 2.6 percent for March, a full point lower than any other state and the lowest state BLS jobless number since the 1970s.

From March 2016 to March 2017, total employment in Michigan grew by 95,000 or 2.1 percent.

Still no limits on union dues evasion 

There continues to be one less hurdle to jump – not that there are that many – for workers wishing to opt out of paying union dues under the Michigan Right to Work laws that went into effect on 2013.

The laws, which separately cover both private and public workers, allow workers in a bargaining unit to opt out of paying union dues, while still enjoying the benefits of a union-bargained contract.  

On May 3, a Michigan Court of Appeals panel upheld by a 3-0 ruling a Michigan Employee Relations Commission (MERC) ruling that affirmed the right of Michigan employees to opt out of paying union dues at any time during the calendar year. 

The ruling was win response to a case brought by a Battle Creek Schools employee, who attempted to resign her union membership in April 2013, but was denied because of a Michigan Education Association rule that their members could only opt out of paying dues during a 30-day window in August of each year.

Other MEA members joined the lawsuit, and free financial support for their legal case was provided by the National Right-to-Work Legal Defense Foundation.

MERC threw out the MEA’s 30-day rule, and said workers could opt out of paying dues at any time during the year. 

“We hold that establishing a broad right to refrain from union affiliation is reasonably related to the legislatively identified public need for voluntary unionism,” appellate judges Brock Swartzle, Peter O’Connell and Jane Beckering said.

“We’re reviewing the court’s opinion and any further legal steps,” MEA spokesman Doug Pratt told the Associated Press. “We’ve been abiding by MERC’s ruling since it was initially made despite that fact that we disagree with their interference in our business practices.”