Senate Republicans reject right-to-work penalties

Sen. John Pappageorge, R-Troy, told the Detroit Free Press, “I’m not going to punish anybody for something they did legally.”

Penalizing school districts and higher education institutions that negotiated “fair share” agreements with employees prior to the implementation of Michigan’s so-called “right-to-work” law is not on the agenda of Republicans in the Michigan Senate, who this week passed education appropriations bills out of committee without the penalties.

That’s in sharp contrast to the state House, where Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee voted recently to eliminate grants for K-12 districts, penalize universities by 15 percent and not increase funds for community colleges — all because they followed the law and negotiated in good faith with school employees.

Between last December’s passage of right-to-work and its March 28 effective date, many school districts, colleges and universities negotiated fair share agreements with their employee associations. The agreements require that employees who benefit from union representation pay their fair share toward the cost of representation. Michigan’s new right-to-work law bans fair share agreements, but only for contracts not in place by March 28.

Extremist politicians have relentlessly attacked employers for negotiating fair share agreements, insisting they should have followed a law that wasn’t yet in place. Those attacks have included being called before McCarthy-style committee hearings in Lansing about the agreements, as well as threats of funding cuts for schools or universities that entered into contracts with employees prior to the implementation date.

While Republicans in the House are attempting to follow through on their threats and take away much-needed resources from students and school employees, Republicans in the Senate seem to be taking a more measured and responsible approach to the issue.

“We will not be supporting the penalties,” 

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Roger Kahn, R-Saginaw, said in an interview with AnnArbor.com.  “The law allowed 90 days for parties affected by this to decide whether they wanted to renegotiate, and some of them did. That seems part-and-parcel of why the law didn’t have immediate effect.”

Sen. John Pappageorge, R-Troy, told the Detroit Free Press, “I’m not going to punish anybody for something they did legally.”

The House and Senate education budgets each differ slightly from Gov. Rick Snyder’s budget proposals, and the process is far from complete. Each proposal contains slight increases in funding for K-12 schools, colleges and universities.

That said, none of the Republican proposals currently on the table come close to replacing the $1 billion that Snyder and the Legislature took from schools to pay for $2 billion in tax cuts for corporate special interests.