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Home News  Labor swings and misses on 'Protect Our Jobs'
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Friday, August 31,2012

Labor swings and misses on 'Protect Our Jobs'

by Kyle Melinn
One state Supreme Court decision is the only thing standing in the way of a constitutional collective bargaining guarantee being officially tossed off the November ballot.

You hear that giant swirling sound? 

That’s $1 million more of organized labor’s money going right down the crapper, exactly where another $1 million or so went in 2008 when the failed “Reform Michigan Government Now” was flushed by essentially the same Michigan Supreme Court.

You’d think labor leaders would have learned their lesson.

The same argument that killed RMGN four years ago is likely going to shoot down “Protect Our Jobs” this year. 

Too many sections of the Constitution are being amended. Too many changes are being made to state law. It’s impossible to fit all of this in the required 100-word ballot description. Going, going, gone.

This folly isn’t going unnoticed in Democratic circles.

How could the UAW & Co. make the same mistake twice? And what is organized labor — the most substantial contributor to most Democratic Party causes — doing pressing their luck, again, with a Republican-nominated majority on the Supreme Court?

Protect Our Jobs folks told me national people double-checked the language for the new constitutional amendment, and I believe them. Given a different Supreme Court, one where Democratic Party-nominated Marilyn Kelly is the chief judge, this thing flies right through to be Proposal 2.

The problem is the politics. If there’s a way to shoot this ballot proposal out of the sky, this Supreme Court will find it. 

The unions had a chance for something more palatable.

But instead of going with something short and sweet, as Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing, suggested in a Senate resolution — “Every person shall have the right to form, join or assist labor organizations and to bargain collectively through representatives chosen by the members of the labor organizations as to wages, benefits and conditions of employment” (that’s 35 words) — the labor unions kept wanting more, more and more.

They wanted something that would overturn the damage they saw being done under the first 18 months of Gov. Rick Snyder’s tenure, where issues for which public employees could collectively bargain were being chipped away.

Automatic union dues withdrawals? Gone. Health care benefits? Seriously limited. Teacher tenure rules? Restricted.

Instead of trying to protect public employees from a Wisconsin/Scott Walker-like scenario, organized labor was hoping to turn back the clock, to get back what had already been lost. 

Attorney General Bill Schuette counted 170 different laws being altered or changed by Protect Our Jobs. The attorney for the ballot proposal, Andrew Nickelhoff, couldn’t come up with a smaller number.

Instead, when asked how many laws this proposal would change, Nickelhoff told reporters: “We can guess at how Protect Our Jobs might affect existing legislation and we could spend all day doing that, but in the end, it’s just going to have to be decided (in the courts) on a case-by-case basis.”

Now the unions are probably going to get nothing.

UAW President Bob King is going to be forced to defend to his membership why more than $1 million that could have gone to President Barack Obama, U.S. Sen. Deb Stabenow, congressional candidates, state House candidates and Supreme Court candidates was spent on an all-or-nothing proposal.

It’s a proposal that, if it were to make the ballot, would have a long climb to win in November anyway — an effort the unions collectively already had $8 million ready to spend.

The TV commercials are already airing and more are being planned, unless Supreme Court Justice Bob Young says “no,” which is expected.

Secretly, some Democrats are breathing a sigh of relief. Protect Our Jobs was guaranteed to suck resources out of every Congressional, House and Supreme Court justice race in the state. It’s money not available for Obama or Stabenow.

And if it had gotten to the ballot and lost?

Right to Work could have come up as soon as lame duck this year in the state House. 

I mentioned Wisconsin in this column and it’s worth mentioning again. Organized labor lost there. They didn’t recall Gov. Scott Walker or bring back collective bargaining for public employees. They did manage to flip control of the Wisconsin Senate, but with the amount of energy that was poured into that state, that’s not what union leaders were hoping to walk away with.

Union issues aren’t playing politically right now and labor is slowly losing its grip as the omnipotent powerful force within the Democratic Party

Another swing-and-miss like Protect Our Jobs isn’t going to bring it back. If anything, it will speed up the decay.

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