Now we’re getting somewhere
An administrative law judge has ordered Ferris State University to explain why they rejected a union contract that had already been agreed upon in an attempt to see if Michigan Republican meddling interfered with the collective bargaining process. It’s the first time a judge has looked into whether or not this interference has violated the law or, perhaps more accurately, coerced university board members into violating the law.
The union contract contained a provision that extended the right of the union to continue to collect dues from its members, staving off the impacts of the Right to Work law that has not yet gone into effect. After it was rejected, the union filed an unfair labor practice charge against the university.
The university has until noon Tuesday to file its response to a series of questions from Administrative Law Judge Doyle O’Connor of the Michigan Administrative Hearing System.
It is the University’s position that we do not comment on pending legal matters,” said Ferris spokesman Sandy Gholston.
The university board, earlier this month, turned down an agreed-upon contract, citing threats from state Legislators to punish those universities who signed a long-term contract to avoid right-to-work legislation.
“The contract negotiations were undertaken with the full awareness by all parties of the impending implementation of Michigan’s new statute prohibiting agency shop clauses in collective bargaining agreements entered into after the effective date of the statute, March 28, 2013,” O’Connor wrote in an order filed Tuesday.
“While a threatened loss of any funding is no small matter for any public employer in Michigan, such a threat would not appear to provide a lawful basis for the employer’s actions. The statutory duty to bargain is not effective only in the absence of threats, controversy, or inconvenience. Contract formation remains subject to the same black letter law: offer and acceptance yield an enforceable contract, no matter the potential adverse collateral consequences.”
Through their petulant actions, Michigan Republicans have put universities into an untenable position. In this case, they may well have strong-armed Ferris State University into violating the law. It will be very interesting to see how this shakes out. As usual, Republicans will probably emerge unscathed as others pay the price for their malfeasance.
[CC image credit by the incomparable Donkey Hotey | Flickr]