Jacques: Don't deny state workers their rights
Two years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the rights of all public sector workers to say “no thanks” to paying anything to their union. And it offered additional stipulations for states to follow that would ensure employees’ rights were protected.
So the Michigan Civil Service Commission, which oversees rules and regulations governing 48,000 state workers (32,000 have union representation), wants to be sure it’s following those guidelines. Last week, the four-member commission released proposed rules with that goal in mind.
But to hear Gov. Gretchen Whitmer tell it, the sky is falling, and the bipartisan commission is trying to “take power away” from state workers. She points to how all the members are appointees of her predecessor, Gov. Rick Snyder, even though the commission is composed of two Republicans and two ndependents.
“Make no mistake, this action is a direct assault on our hardworking state employees, who are serving bravely on the frontlines to protect the people of Michigan from COVID-19,” said Whitmer in a statement Friday.
She believes the rule changes would “weaken collective bargaining rights for state employees.”
This shouldn’t come as a surprise from Whitmer, who vehemently opposed Michigan’s move to a right-to-work state in 2012, and who has continued to prioritize the wants of union leaders during her tenure as governor.
When the Janus vs. ASFCME Supreme Court decision came down in 2018, while she was running for governor, Whitmer had this to say:
“Today’s 5-4 ruling by the Supreme Court should serve as a wake-up call to every working family in Michigan that our current leaders in Lansing and Washington aren’t on our side.”
All this explosive rhetoric clouds the whole point of the High Court decision — and what the Civil Service Commission is trying to do.
"It's not attacking workers, it's empowering workers," says Jase Bolger, a Republican member of the commission and former speaker of the Michigan House.
Public sector workers shouldn’t be forced or coerced into financially supporting a union. That goes against their First Amendment rights, as those dollars fund union work and advocacy some employees don’t support.
The commission’s proposed rule changes would alter the way union dues are collected among state employees, requiring workers under the commission’s jurisdiction to reauthorize every year union dues deduction from their checks. The rules would also phase out agency fees by 2022. Those lesser fees used to be required of workers who opted out of the union and paying full dues.
The commission is concerned some employees may not be aware of their rights.
According to the commission's proposal, “The Janus court held that ‘nonmembers are waiving their First Amendment rights, and such a waiver cannot be presumed,’ that employees must ‘affirmatively consent,’ and that the waiver ‘must be freely given and shown by ‘clear and compelling’ evidence.”
Democrats are generally on the bandwagon of affirmative consent when it comes to sexual relationships. Apparently, they don’t like it when it comes to workers' rights and their paychecks.
Bolger has stated the proposed rules would empower workers “to be informed of their rights and then decide each year if they want to have union dues deducted from their paycheck.”
The commission could consider the new rules at its next meeting in mid-July, and is taking public comment through July 6.
Other states are taking stronger action to make sure they are following the Janus decision, including Texas and Alaska. So should Michigan.
Whitmer surely understands that the Supreme Court decision wasn’t a mere suggestion, but rather what the Constitution demands. She shouldn’t try to stand in the way.