Unions, workers launch ballot drive to protect collective bargaining
By Angela Wittrock | mLIVE
Tuesday, March 06, 2012
LANSING – Nurses, teachers, construction workers and others gathered at the state Capitol Tuesday to launch their drive to enshrine collective bargaining as a right guaranteed to employees under the Michigan Constitution.
The "Protect Our Jobs" campaign began Tuesday collecting the 322,609 signatures needed to get the issue on the ballot. Organizers have until July 9, 2012 to file the signature with the Secretary of State.
If the drive is successful, Michigan residents would vote on the issue Nov. 6.
The ballot initiative would add a section to the state Constitution outlining the people's right to "organize together to form, join or assist labor organizations, and to bargain collectively with a public or private employer" as permitted under federal statute.
Additionally, the new language would prohibit the Legislature from enacting laws restricting collective bargaining.
"Now more than ever, workers need the right to speak up to protect our wages, our benefits, and our voice – and that's what this proposal is all about," John Armelagos, a registered nurse from Ann Arbor. "Michigan workers helped create the middle class, and now we need to protect our collective bargaining rights to help rebuild our economy."
Campaign finance records for the group list Armelagos at the organization's treasurer.
Michigan lawmakers have made a concerted effort to erode collective bargaining rights, the group said in a press release, "doing nothing to help put Michigan back to work."
The campaign's website lists some 80 bills pending in the state Legislature that advocates say are attacks on workers' rights, including a bill passed by the state House of Representatives making it illegal for graduate student research employees to form a labor union.
In addition to protecting bargaining rights of employees, the proposed language would prohibit retaliation by employers; protect current laws establishing minimum wages, hours and working conditions; and give the state power to restrict or prohibit public employee strikes.
United Auto Workers President Bob King announced his union's support for the initiative at the UAW's national conference in Washington, D.C. last week.
King said the union has been "out in front" on the push to amend the Michigan Constitution to protect collective bargaining eights.
"We hope that Michigan can lead what will then be movements around the United States to guarantee workers' rights to organize and to collective bargaining," he said.
###Back to News »