Michigan Enacts Municipal Union Reforms

Michigan Enacts Municipal Union Reforms

Dissolving Governments in Michigan

New measures passed in Michigan will allow the state to dissolve governments, void union contracts, toss aside elected school-board members, close schools and authorize charter schools. Thankfully, those measures are being put to good use.

Please consider Using New Emergency Financial Manager Law, They Start Dissolving Governments in Michigan

In what is likely to be just the first of several dissolutions of democratically elected city governments and school boards in Michigan, the Emergency Financial Manager of Benton Harbor, Joseph Harris, just took away all authority from the city’s elected government.


1. Absent prior express written authorization and approval by the Emergency Manager, no City Board, Commission or Authority shall take any action for or on behalf of the City whatsoever other than:

i) Call a meeting to order.

ii) Approve of meeting minutes.

iii) Adjourn a meeting.

2. That all prior resolutions, or acts of any kind of the City in conflict herewith are and the same shall be, to the extent of such conflict, rescinded.

3. This order shall be effective immediately.

The author of that blog sees it differently than I do. “EmptyWheel” complains. I cheer.

When you are bankrupt you lose authority to a bankruptcy board. That bankruptcy board gets to make actions. As part of those actions, city officials who could not or did not do their job, lose their rights to govern.

How can that possibly be wrong?

In many instances elected officials cannot possibly do their jobs because of poor decisions made by their predecessors. For examples, many cities are cash-strapped because of untenable agreements on wages and benefits given to public unions.

Public unions typically will not negotiate, being the foolish entities they are. So bankruptcy and takeover is the solution.

Detroit Moves Against Public Unions

Benton Harbor is small-potatoes. Detroit is big-time. Moreover, Detroit is bankrupt and public unions are part of the reason. Thus, I am pleased to report Detroit Moves Against Unions

A new state law has emboldened the Detroit mayor and schools chief to take a more aggressive stance toward public unions as the city leaders try to mop up hundreds of millions of dollars in red ink.

Robert Bobb, the head of the Detroit Public Schools, late last week sent layoff notices to the district’s 5,466 salaried employees, including all of its teachers, a preliminary step in seeking broad work-force cuts to deal with lower enrollment.

Mr. Bobb, already an emergency financial manager for the struggling and shrinking public school system, is getting further authority under a measure signed into law March 17 that broadens state powers to intervene in the finances and governance of struggling municipalities and school districts. This could enable Mr. Bobb to void union contracts, sideline elected school-board members, close schools and authorize charter schools.

Mr. Bobb, appointed in 2009 by Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm and retained by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, pledged last week to use those powers to deal decisively with the district’s $327 million shortfall and its educational deficiencies. Mr. Bobb raised the possibility of making unilateral changes to the collective-bargaining agreements signed with teachers less than two years ago.

He is also expected to target seniority rights that protect longtime teachers from layoffs and give them the ability to reject certain school placements.

Detroit Federation of Teachers officials called the initiative a poor idea, in part because nine of the schools slated for conversion to charter designation or closure were recently given new dispensation to relax work rules and haven’t had enough time to demonstrate their progress, they said.

I cheer Rick Snyder and anyone else willing to take public unions head on. Those unions are part of the problem (not all of it), and zero part of the solution.

As part of the solution (not all of it), we need national right-to-work laws, the scrapping of Davis-Bacon and all prevailing wage laws, and a complete end to collective bargaining of public unions.

About the author: Mike “Mish” Shedlock is a registered investment advisor representative for Sitka Pacific Capital Management. His top-rated global economics blog Mish’s Global Economic Trend Analysis offers insightful commentary every day of the week. He is also a contributing “professor” on Minyanville, a community site focused on economic and financial education. Every Thursday he does a podcast on HoweStreet and on an ad hoc basis he contributes to many other websites, including UnionWatch.

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