In 2011, Republicans dealt a serious blow to the collective bargaining process by passing a law (Public Act 4152 of 2011) that said state employees cannot get retroactive pay when a contract is settled. This law essentially created an incentive for public employers to not settle a contract. The longer the employer can hold out, the less they have to pay because wages are frozen at the current level and any raise agreed upon can not include a raise for the time when the contract was unsettled. It pretty much puts public employers at the mercy of their bosses, the way Republicans like it.
According to the Detroit News, legislators are looking to change that law to allow unionized police and fire to get retroactive pay. The article cited Republican Representative John Walsh (a former Chamber of Commerce chairman) who “said the law was meant to be aimed only at public school employees.” This could very well be evidence that the law violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. According to the Cornell Univesity Law School website, the 14th amendment can be interpreted to mean “the laws of a state must treat an individual in the same manner as others in similar conditions and circumstances.” As employees of the state, it could easily be argued that firefighters, teachers, police officers, prison employees, and other state employees are employed under similar circumstances.
It’s hard to say if legislators will carve out a special exemption for police and firefighters. Republican Ethics Committee chair Lisa Posthumus Lyons unsuccessfully attempted to do that for her husband, a prison guard, when the right-to-work law was passed. It’s also hard to say if unions, who have been bludgeoned with discriminatory laws passed by the Republicans, have the resources to fight this law. What is certain is that Republicans see teaching as being a lesser profession. They seem to believe teachers do not deserve to have a say in their working conditions like the police who protect them. I guess you can pander for more than votes. Discrimination and pandering: the new axioms of the Michigan Republican Party.