UPDATED: Michigan Republicans vote to punish universities that renegotiate union contracts before Right to Work kicks in

What’s good for the goose is, apparently, NOT good for the gander

A couple of weeks ago, I reported on Republicans’ outrage that universities in Michigan were renegotiating contracts with their union employees and including provisions that postponed the impact of their recently-passed Right to Work legislation by allowing for the collection of union dues for several more years.

Today, the Republicans acted on that outrage and chose to punish the schools that did this, namely the University of Michigan and Wayne State University, by eliminating 15% of their appropriation for the next year.

The way they did this was using House Bill 4221, the higher education appropriations bill. If you look at the chart on the last page of the summary (pdf), you see two columns. One is titled “15% Across-the-Board Reduction”. The one immediately adjacent is titled “Employee Contracting Funding”. There is a note accompanying that second column which reads:

Requirements to receive employee contracting funding amounts:
1. Comply with section 265b provisions related to “fiduciary responsibility in employee contracting”

Section 265b (on page 3 of the summary) reads thusly:

Sec. 265b. Employee Contracting – NEW
Provides that funds appropriated for fiduciary responsibility in employee contracting be paid to a university only if it does not extend, renew, or enter into a labor contract under certain circumstances between December 10, 2012 and March 28, 2013 without achieving 10% or greater savings and does not enter into a contract between the same dates that contains only terms that constitute a union security agreement that requires any of several specified employee actions as a condition of employment. House adds new section.

Here’s what I wrote on March 1st:

If it weren’t so insulting and offensive, it would be amusing to watch hypocrites from the Republican Party and anti-teacher groups acting so outraged at what they portray as skirting the law to get what they want. Republicans passed the Right to Work legislation while doors to the Capitol were illegally locked to keep out protesters and with absolutely zero hearings or ability for public input… The hypocrisy on this is breathtaking. Republicans exploit every loophole they can find to pass their overreaching anti-labor, anti-teacher agenda but are now freaking out when the victims of their overreach do the same in order to keep some minor protections in place.

Another day, another parcel of shameless hypocrisy from Michigan Republicans and their conservative partners.

It’s not only hypocritical, it’s actually childish. Though they themselves exploit loopholes endless in their march to enact their ideologically-driven agenda, when universities engage in actual good-faith negotiations with their employees which benefit the union members Republicans show such disdain for, they act like a petulant child who doesn’t get what he wants, lashing out to punish the subject of their impotent rage. Only, unlike a petulant child whose temper tantrum affects only himself and his family, the Republicans’ public temper tantrum, driven by their drunk-with-power ideology, is harming Michigan students and workers.

David Hecker, President of AFT Michigan, released this statement:

Our universities are the gateway to good jobs and a stronger economy. Since Michigan is not currently a Right to Work state, it’s wrong for Lansing Republicans to bully university boards and employees who negotiated collective bargaining agreements legally and in good faith. By punishing Wayne State and the University of Michigan for making decisions that are completely legal, Lansing Republicans are jeopardizing the futures of Michigan students. Republican leaders should stop these unfounded attacks so our universities can get back to what they do best – providing our students with a world-class education.

I’m sure that these hypocrites will now find a way to suitably punish K-12 schools who have negotiated new contracts with their unionized teachers and other employees, as well. After all, why stop at college students when you can use your power to hurt children, as well?

UPDATE: I’m not the only one who thinks this is pure hypocrisy. Now comes the Detroit Free Press editorial board with a scathing editorial titled “GOP lawmakers show insulting hypocrisy over Wayne State contract” that uses much of the same language I have:

We’re tempted to laugh pretty hard at GOP lawmakers in Lansing, haughty as they are in their disgust for an eight-year collective bargaining agreement between Wayne State University and its professors.

It stinks when political opponents use legal technicalities to skirt democratic intentions, doesn’t it, guys? {…}

It’s sort of like how legislators could plop an appropriation in the right-to-work bill, where it had no relevant policy purpose, as a way to prevent voters from trying to repeal it through a referendum. Or how GOP lawmakers, with Gov. Rick Snyder’s help, rammed right-to-work through the Legislature during its lame duck session, inserting the law into shell bills that got no real debate and weren’t really open to amendment.

The right-to-work sham last year was one of the least democratic exercises witnessed in Lansing’s long, sorry history, and the GOP has itself to blame for that. {…}

GOP lawmakers should spare everyone the duplicitous outrage.

Even worse, though, is the idea that the GOP would react by slashing at higher education budgets in response. Really? Exacerbate the gross inequity that has Michigan spending more on prisons than on higher education? Force universities (which can surely do more to economize but which also need billions more to stay competitive with peer institutions around the nation) to lean even more on skyrocketing student tuition and fees to make up for government’s emaciated support?

That’s beyond bad policy and well into the territory of stone foolish lawmaking.

Right-to-work will be law soon enough — the GOP made sure of that by precluding the regular democratic process from playing out.

GOP lawmakers would make themselves even more garishly petulant by punishing universities on top of it.

UPDATE 2: The toll on these two universities alone (and all of their students, of course) is $74.8 million.

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