Pro-worker initiative will stay on the Michigan ballot

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The Michigan Court of Appeals has rejected a challenge to a ballot proposal that asks Michigan residents to vote on whether the right to bargaining collectively over wages and benefits should be protected in the state constitution.

In June, supporters of the amendment turned in nearly 700,000 signatures to get the proposal on the ballot—more than twice as many signatures as the state requires. (See earlier story.) The secretary of state validated them. But the state attorney general, with the backing of the governor, has tried to keep the measure off the ballot, claiming that the language of the initiative is vague. The Board of State Canvassers voted along party lines to not allow the initiative on the ballot. The court ruled that the board exceeded its authority.

The collective bargaining measure is the product of a campaign called Protect Working Families, which AFT Michigan and other pro-worker groups launched in March in response to a continuous assault by Gov. Rick Snyder and Republican lawmakers.

"We're facing what people in other states have faced—right-wing, anti-union, anti-public service, anti-public education forces that will do anything to stop the voice of the people from being heard at the polling place, at the Legislature," says John McDonald, president of the Henry Ford Community College Federation of Teachers and an AFT vice president.

At the AFT convention in Detroit this summer, hundreds of delegates fanned out to the surrounding suburbs to talk to registered voters about the ballot initiative. When voters learn what the amendment says, says McDonald, their support is not a hard sell, despite Republicans' continued determination to fight it.

"It's a sad state of affairs when a reactionary group of people think they know better than the citizens of the state as to what the citizens should vote on," adds McDonald. "They are usurping the vote of the people, which shows what low regard they have for the intelligence of Michigan citizens." [Barbara McKenna, AFT Michigan]

September 4, 2012