Michigan Set to Allow Voiding of Unions Contracts

Wednesday, 16 Mar 2011 01:00 PM


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DETROIT — The Michigan House gave final approval Tuesday to granting state-appointed emergency managers broad powers to break labor deals with failing schools and cities, and the plan is expected to be signed into law.

New Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, who is expected to sign the draft law soon, asked for the plan to extend the powers of emergency managers appointed to save failing programs. Detroit Public Schools, the state's largest district, has been under emergency management for two years.

House members voted 62-48 to approve an amended version of the bill Senators passed last week. Several Democratic attempts to change the bill were rejected before the final vote.

Last week, hundreds of pro-union demonstrators jammed the Capitol in Lansing from the rotunda to the floors above to protest the plan in a scene similar to the weeks of opposition from demonstrators at the Wisconsin Capitol in Madison.

The Michigan bill allows a governor-appointed emergency manager to modify or end collective bargaining agreements. With the governor's approval, the emergency manager also could dissolve a city government or recommend consolidation.

Democrats called the bill an attack on public sector unions similar to legislation signed by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker last week and said the changes would add to pressure on cities and school districts.

Republican Rep. Al Pscholka, the bill's sponsor, said Tuesday that the changes would give emergency managers more tools to turn around failing schools and cities.

"For years we have allowed cities and schools to be on the verge of bankruptcy without any intervention," Pscholka said. "When the state finally does arrive, in many cases we find the financial records in disarray and leave emergency managers with very few good options to balance the books."

The bill expands the powers for the state to name emergency overseers and gives them powers over academics and finances in the case of school districts. The emergency manager also could close schools and buildings.

Detroit is the only Michigan school district now under emergency management, but more than a hundred are projected to be in deficit spending this year. Deficit spending is one factor in considering an emergency overseer.

Several Michigan cities have been under emergency financial managers at some point including Pontiac, Highland Park, Hamtramck and Benton Harbor.

© 2014 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

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