Today the House and the Senate passed House Bill 4929 which will prohibit the “use of public school resources to assist a labor organization in collecting dues.” They passed the bill even though the House Fiscal Agency (H.F.A.) said the bill will “have no significant impact on school districts“ because the process of collecting dues is “largely automated.” In fact, implementation of the bill would actually create “work” according to the H.F.A. Republicans defeated an amendment offered by Democrats to allow the deduction process to continue with any associated costs being paid by the labor organization. The Republicans even went so far as to make the bill “referendum proof” by inserting a pointless appropriation into the bill. The bill is so bad that eight House Republicans and six Senate Republicans voted against it.
Unless Governor Snyder vetoes this bill, we will basically have ”right to work” for Michigan public school teachers. While “right to work” allows people to get all the benefits of a union without paying dues, H.B. 4929 allows people to get all the benefits of a union without paying dues. The only difference is how the dues are circumvented by the conscientious objector (a.k.a free loader). In a “right to work” situation, the person says they are not going to join the union or pay the dues even though they will benefit a great deal from the work of the union. With this de facto “right to work” bill, a person could just refuse to pay their dues. What is the union going to do? The burden to try to collect and process all the dues would be put on a union treasurer who is often paid only a few hundred dollars a year. Just like the “right to work” law, this would weaken unions and some may even cease to exist because of the funding and morale issues the law would create.
You have to give Michigan Republicans credit for being slick. They have not taken the Scott Walker approach of eliminating collective bargaining in broad daylight. Instead, Michigan Republicans began weaking collective bargaining a little at a time. So far they have passed laws to restrict the ability of teachers to bargain over evaluations, to collect back pay from an unsettled contract, or to engage in unrestricted bargaining over insurance coverage. While sneaky, this bill is much more bold. It is a full fledged attempt to kill public school unions without using the “right to work approach.” While “right to work” is like a dagger to the heart of organized labor, this bill is a lot like a knife in the back! Lets hope progressives can find a way to slow the bleeding and deliver a counterstrike of their own.