by Clyde Weiss | June 15, 2012
In a huge victory for public workers’ rights, the Michigan Court of Appeals will let voters decide whether the state's disastrous, undemocratic "local dictator law" should stand.
Known as Public Act 4, the emergency manager act demonstrates that the regime of Gov. Rick Snyder is even more radical than that of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who abolished collective bargaining for public service workers statewide. The Michigan law goes even farther in Snyder’s quest to silence our voices and strip us of our rights. Not only does it wipe out union contracts, it allows a unilaterally appointed “local dictator” to tear up any contract, displace any employee or elected official, suspend self-government, and even abolish a city or a school district.
But we’ve gone on the offensive. In February, a coalition of AFSCME Council 25, community groups, churches and other labor organizations – called Stand Up for Democracy – collected more than 225,000 signatures to put the question to voters.
The Governor and Chamber of Commerce fabricated a challenge to the size of the wording used on the petitions, temporarily derailing this exercise in democracy. Their position was upheld by two Republicans members of the Board of State Canvassers, leading the coalition to appeal that decision in court.
Last week, a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals agreed that voters should be allowed to vote on the matter, ruling the petition was in “substantial compliance” with state law. But the court held up its ruling until all the judges on the court were polled to see if they wanted to conduct a review by a seven-member panel. In Thursday’s ruling, the court announced that the panel would not need to be convened and that the measure can proceed to the November ballot.
“This decision is a victory for democracy,” said Council 25 Sec.-Treas. Lawrence A. (Larry) Roehrig, also an AFSCME International vice president. “It allows the voters of Michigan to have their voice heard at the ballot box, not silenced because a partisan board’s decision to deny them that right because of a font size.”
Reacting to reports that the group challenging the petitions may appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court, Roehrig said, “Unfortunately, those who wish to stop the voice of the people are determined to delay and postpone a final decision by appealing its decision. Until justice is done, we will continue to fight for the rights of Michigan’s citizens.”
Next, in conjunction with the entire labor movement, AFSCME is working to put a Constitutional Amendment on the November ballot that provides the right to organize for collective bargaining as a fundamental constitutional right. Like the vote in Ohio that blocked the anti-worker SB-5, and unlike the recall votes in Wisconsin – it’s a pure question of whether the voters want unionism to be part of their state, or not.
Our members in Wisconsin inspired us all to stand our ground, as did AFSCME members in Puerto Rico. They got the same governor and Legislature who stripped their rights to reverse direction 27 months later to restore workers’ rights to collective bargaining. Now approximately 13,000 employees represented by Servidores Públicos Unidos (SPU)/AFSCME Council 95 are working under contracts that improved their wages, benefits and working conditions.
AFSCME Michigan has been helping in all these fights, while battling Gov. Snyder’s reactionary agenda on a thousand fronts. Michigan has been there for all of us, and we’re all going to be there for them.