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Movement in Michigan on Collective-Bargaining Measures

Collective bargaining, including for public-employee unions representing teachers, appears likely to be a major topic for consideration by Michigan voters come Election Day.

Exhibit A is a referendum that would repeal recent revisions of the state's emergency-financial-manager law to go to voters on Nov. 6.

Though that law has been in place since the 1990s, revisions that took effect last year granted significant new powers to such individuals, permitting them to amend or override bargained contracts unilaterally. In Detroit, the city's emergency manager, Roy Roberts, did just that, causing much tension between him and the Detroit Federation of Teachers. The state's Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that the referendum could go on the ballot.

Exhibit B, known as "Project Our Jobs," is a ballot initiative that would make the ability to collectively bargain a right under the state's constitution, effectively making it impossible for the legislature to pass a "right to work" bill.

This measure has been strongly pushed by the state's AFL-CIO chapter and the Michigan Education Association, among other parties, after Gov. Rick Snyder's signature of the emergency-manager bill last year, as well as an education measure that significantly overhauled teacher tenure and seniority rules. Not surprisingly, the initiative is opposed by Snyder and the state's attorney general. A state appellate court on Monday cleared the measure for the ballot, but a state Supreme Court challenge to the ruling seems next in line before Election Day.

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