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Michigan Unions in Last-Ditch Fight on Right to Work Law

Last year’s fight over Michigan’s right to work law was the biggest battle the state’s unions faced in generations, and the unions lost. But now they have figured out a way to stall for more time. One week before the law goes into effect, public sector unions are signing long-term contracts with their employers that will put off the pain for years. The WSJ reports:

Wednesday, the board of governors for Detroit’s Wayne State University approved an unusually lengthy contract that keeps mandatory collection of union dues in place for eight years. At the University of Michigan’s three campuses, similar contracts affecting 11,000 workers and stretching as long as five years have been tentatively approved and await ratification by union members.

Needless to say, the Republicans who control the state house are none too pleased and are now threatening colleges that sign these contracts with significant funding cuts:

This week, a legislative subcommittee passed a bill to strip 15% of state aid from colleges and universities that insert a so-called union security clause into their labor contracts before March 28. The colleges can have the money back if they prove that any new agreement calls for a 10% cost savings overall.

“Our question is: What did you get for such a long contract?” said Ari Adler, a spokesman for Republicans in the Michigan state House.

It’s not yet clear whether these threats will have their desired effect. What is clear is that the unions are pulling out all the stops to keep their hold on the Rust Belt states that have historically been the center of union power in America.

As we noted last year, unions across the country are paying close attention to what happens in states like Michigan and Wisconsin. This is a battle they don’t want to lose, and they are doing whatever they can to make sure they don’t.

The unions appear to be gambling that, if they can put off the changes for a few years and gather their strength, their candidates can win future elections when the political winds shift back in their favor. But with state after state—and even some blue states—taking harder lines against public sector unions, it’s not clear that that shift will ever come.

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