On November 6, 2012, voters will be asked to amend the 1963 Michigan Constitution to add a Section 28 to Article I (Declaration of Rights) and to amend Article XI (Public Officers and Employment), Section 5. Proposal 2012-02, which is on the statewide ballot as a result of petitions circulated by the Protect Our Jobs Coalition, seeks to enshrine in the fundamental law of the state the right of public and private sector employees to organize for the purpose of collective bargaining. It would allow collectively bargained labor contracts to undo all previously enacted restrictions on the right to organize and engage in collective bargaining and for employees to financially support their collective bargaining representatives, and forbid the enactment of future legislation that would affect those rights. It would effectively restrict the ability of the Michigan legislature to enact right to work legislation. It would codify in the Constitution the right of state employees to formally organize for the purpose of collective bargaining. The proposal allows the state to continue to exercise the ability to prohibit strikes by public sector employees.
An affirmative vote would add Section 28 to Article I and amend Section 5, Article XI, the implications of which are analyzed below. A vote against this amendment would allow those laws currently in place to set parameters within which collective bargaining exists for local governments, school districts, institutions of higher education, and other political subdivisions of the state. The state's civil service commission would continue to create the work rules and conditions of employment for state employees and employee organizations would continue to negotiate with the state employer on matters not covered by civil service rules.
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Unions and collective bargaining enhance the strength of workers who join together to negotiate with employers on matters of wages, benefits, and conditions of employment. Michigan is considered a cradle of the union movement and has long been a focus of private sector organized labor. The concentration of manufacturing in the state has meant that historically large percentages of the state's workforce belong to labor unions.
Data from the Current Population Survey (CPS) conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) show that Michigan has the 5th highest concentration of union membership in the nation: 18.3 percent of the total Michigan workforce is a union member. This is largely driven by the concentration of union membership in private sector employment: 12.4 percent of private sector Michigan workers belong to unions. This is the third highest percentage in the nation.
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