House Committee hears testimony restricting union dues collection, union activities

The House Oversight, Reform and Ethics Committee heard testimony Tuesday from union members who oppose HB 5023-5026, bills restricting union activities and punishing union members. And all of them pretty much said the same thing—the legislation is punitive, unnecessary, irrelevant and unconstitutional.

HB 5025, probably the most damaging piece of anti-union legislation in the package, requires an employee’s annual written authorization to have their union dues deducted from their paychecks. Supporters say this bill gives workers more opportunities to control whether money is collected for political activities or other functions—control workers already have, making this legislation just another attack on unions.

Union members repeatedly testified that PAC contributions do not come from dues; they are a voluntary contribution. They also stressed that no worker in Michigan is forced to join a union. Workers can opt to pay their fair share which only pays for the salary and benefits the union has negotiated for all workers.

The other bills are an attempt to legislate problems that don’t really exist and impose stricter punishment when there already are consequences for an action. HB 5023 fines striking public employees one day’s pay and their union $5,000 for each day of the strike. HB 5024 sets fines on members and their unions for mass picketing which disrupts an employer’s daily business. HB 5026 makes it easier for employers to hire replacements for striking workers.

John Duffy, MEA Local 1 President and 6-E Coordinating Council Chairperson, questioned how any of this legislation was conducive to creating jobs. Committee Chair Rep. Tom McMillin (R-Rochester Hills) challenged Duffy by telling him that if unions followed the law there would be no negative impact. Duffy responded, “Since union members follow the law, there is no negative impact, but at the same time, there is no positive impact that creates jobs or improves the lives of the people of Michigan.”

Rep. Timothy Bledsoe (D-Grosse Pointe) and Rep. Lisa Brown (D-West Bloomfield) joined representatives from the Professional Firefighters, the UAW and the AFL-CIO questioning the need for this legislation when Michigan is facing an economic crisis and needs to be focused on creating jobs.

The Committee will hear more testimony next week.