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Michigan Politicians Continue to Play Legal Games Over Workers’ Rights

by Clyde Weiss  |  August 22, 2012

Protect Working FamiliesThe right of public service workers to retirement security and other benefits, and their very ability to negotiate for those things through collective bargaining, is under attack nationwide by corporate-driven politicians. But in Michigan, citizens are fighting back for collective bargaining and a key ruling could come today to support them.

This summer, hundreds of thousands of residents signed petitions and got a citizens’ vote on collective bargaining on the November ballot. The 684,286 signatures collected by the Protect Our Jobs coalition (of which AFSCME Council 25 is a leading member) were more than enough to demand a vote on a simple, straightforward state constitutional amendment that reads in part, “no law shall abridge, impair or limit the right to collectively bargain for wages, hours and other terms and conditions of employment.”

But in an undemocratic demonstration of partisan politics, the Board of State Canvassers deadlocked last week on allowing the amendment to go to the voters. The board’s two Republican members voted not to certify the amendment, meaning that it won’t be placed on the ballot.

In a legal battle now taking place before the state Court of Appeals, state Attorney General Bill Schuette filed papers Monday to block the initiative, making the baseless argument that the proposed amendment’s impact on Michigan law cannot be summarized in a required 100-word ballot statement. The Court of Appeals heard arguments on the collective bargaining question today. The deadline for the measure to get on the Nov. 6 ballot is Aug. 27.

Schuette and Gov. Rick Snyder’s tactic – to prevent voters from voicing their opinion on a worker-friendly ballot initiative – sounds familiar to us. After the AFSCME-led Stand Up for Democracy coalition submitted more than 200,000 signatures in February 2012 to get a citizens' veto of what we call Michigan’s “local dictators law,” the canvassing board deadlocked along the same partisan lines that it did  on the collective bargaining measure – thereby blocking it. (Earlier this month, the State Supreme Court rejected that specious argument and ordered the ballot measure to go before the voters.)

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