There's reform, and then there's political payback. A bill on its way to Gov. Rick Snyder's desk that would forbid public schools from deducting union dues from employees' paychecks falls into the second category.
The bill, HB 4929, prohibits the use of "public school resources" — including payroll systems — to collect union dues or service fees. Here are three reasons why the bill doesn't make sense.
n Payroll deductions — whether for union dues, insurance premiums, retirement plans or even charitable donations like United Way pledges — are routine, common and easily handled by any decent payroll system. The idea that it's a drain on taxpayer resources for schools to collect and forward union dues just doesn't hold water.
n An amendment proposed by Sen. Rebekah Warren, D-Ann Arbor, would have allowed payroll deductions to continue if unions paid for the privilege — a measure that might even have helped schools on the revenue front while costing them nothing extra. This amendment was rejected, thus giving the lie to the idea that the bill is simply about safeguarding taxpayer money.
n Like a number of other measures passed by this Legislature, the bill does not apply to any other public employers — it only affects schools. This strongly suggests that the bill is simply an act of political retribution against the Michigan Education Association, which is the state's largest teachers union.
While it's no big deal for school districts to add one more deduction to a payroll process they're already paying for, it's a bigger deal for unions to add a whole new billing and collections infrastructure for their members. The bill won't save anybody any money, but it could cost school employee unions a decent chunk of change — which suggests this is less about finances and more about creating an extra inconvenience for a political enemy.
We have supported many of this Legislature's changes to labor law in Michigan. And there are reasonable changes that can be made in dues deductions as well: For example, we think a proposal (HB 5025) to require employees' written permission ... to continue dues deductions is a perfectly reasonable ... measure.
We also should note that the MEA has, to some extent, invited these attacks through its own actions. With its involvement in anti-Republican recall efforts over the past year, the MEA has started to seem more and more like an arm of the Democratic Party. ...
Banning deduction of union dues (and no other payroll deductions) ... seems more like political retribution than sound policy.
The governor should veto HB 4929 when it reaches his desk.
The Daily Telegram (Adrian)