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School board opposes Proposal 2 on November ballot

by Susan Bromley

September 26, 2012

Brandon Twp.- School board members here are unanimously opposing a proposal on the November ballot that would amend the state constitution regarding collective bargaining.

The board voted 7-0 at their Sept. 17 meeting to pass a resolution opposing Proposal 2, known as the "Protect Our Jobs" amendment.

If passed, the proposal would embed bargaining rights and negate all recent laws regarding bargaining, said Superintendent Lorrie McMahon.

"The board believes that laws governing collective bargaining should be handled by the Legislature," McMahon said. "We have a good relationship with our unions. The proposal will take away parameters for what are negotiable items and what are non-negotiable items. The concern is that it is a change in the (state) Constitution when the Constitution doesn't need to be changed."

"We do not have a contract settled (with the Brandon Education Association). Currently, the law prohibits automatic wage and step increases. We expect we would have to pay that, even though we have not negotiated a contract. This proposal would also take us back to the automatic rights of senior employees over less senior employees—last in, first out."

McMahon estimated that if the automatic wage and step increases took effect, it would cost the district a minimum of $500,000 and the district may have to find another $400,000 on top of that if the employee contribution for healthcare became negotiable again.

"If we lose the $900,000, the district will be headed for deficit," she said. "We can't possibly lay off that many teachers, we owe our students a quality education."

The district's contract with the Brandon Education Association expired in June. In that contract, the teachers accepted a a pay and step freeze and increased insurance deductibles of $500 for an individual (previously $100) and $1,000 for a family (previously $200); a new prescription drug plan and higher office visit costs. They also agreed to pay 15 percent of their insurance premiums.

Brandon Education Association President Pat Montgomery did not immediately return calls for comment.

Supporters of the measure collected and turned in 684,286 petition signatures in June. The Michigan Supreme Court ordered earlier this month that the proposal should appear on the Nov. 6 ballot as follows:

"Proposal 12-2

A proposal to amend the State Constitution regarding collective bargaining

This proposal would:

-Grant public and private employees the constitutional right to organize and bargain collectively through labor unions.

-Invalidate existing or future state or local laws that limit the ability to join unions and bargain collectively, and to negotiate and enforce collective bargaining agreements, including employees' financial support of their labor unions. Laws may be enacted to prohibit public employees from striking.

-Override state laws that regulate hours and conditions of employment to the extent that those laws conflict with collective bargaining agreements.

-Define "employer" as a person or entity employing one or more employees.

Should this proposal be approved?"

The resolution the school board passed opposing the proposal notes that if it were passed, the proposal would invalidate existing or future state or local laws that limit the ability to join labor organizations or bargain collectively, and to negotiate and enforce collective bargaining agreements, including employees' financial support of their labor organizations and that the proposal's impact is uncertain and not specified by the unions promoting its passage.

The board also cites concerns that the proposal could nullify recent legislative reforms which emphasize teaching effectiveness rather than seniority or tenure status as the basis for employment decisions and also could eliminate the current requirement for public employee cost-sharing of "soaring healthcare costs and to mandate that insurance and salary increases automatically continue, even after a collective bargaining agreement expires, and despite a school district's ability to pay or assume such increases."

McMahon said passage of the proposal could mean an immediate $1 million financial hit to the district.

"If passed, it will cost us," she said.