Sex, Drugs, and Union Rolls: 2012 Ballot Initiatives Mark the Real Battles

There's more to the political season than analyzing every utterance by Obama and Romney.

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3. Labor Pains

As state budgets continue to take a beating, the relationship between public sector unions and the government that employs them continues to be a source of conflict.

Reason Foundation Senior Analyst Shikha Dalmia wrote about Michigan’s “Protect Our Jobs” Amendment earlier in October. The initiative would add collective bargaining as a right recognized in Michigan’s state constitution. Dalmia looked at some consequences of the amendment that Michigan voters may not realize, but that union leaders are well aware of:

The amendment says that no "existing or future laws shall abridge, impair or limit" the collective-bargaining rights of Michigan workers. That may sound innocuous, but according to Patrick Wright of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, the amendment would hand a broad mandate to unions to challenge virtually any law they don't like.

Wright says that passage would almost certainly mean the end of Michigan's Public Act 112, which made the privatization of schools' food, busing and custodial services off-limits in collective-bargaining negotiations. More than 60 percent of Michigan school districts have privatized these services over the past two decades, resulting in annual savings of about $300 million.

Also unlikely to withstand legal challenge would be last year's Public Act 4, which gave state-appointed emergency managers broad powers to turn around fiscally distressed local entities by, among other things, rewriting union contracts. The act has already been applied to four cities and three school districts that otherwise by now would have had to file for bankruptcy.

Though the initiative led in early polls, numbers from late October have opposition now surpassing 50 percent.

In California, millions are being spent by both sides on Proposition 32, which would prohibit automatic paycheck deductions from both unions and corporations in order to fund political activity. Corporations don’t normally engage in paycheck deductions to fund political activity, so the proposition is recognized as targeting unions.

Reason Foundation Vice President of Policy Adrian Moore analyzed the possible impacts of all of California’s propositions and produced a voters guide. Current polls (including our Reason-Rupe poll) have the initiative behind.

Getting a bit less attention in Idaho, legislation that restricts teachers’ collective bargaining agreements, requires teacher evaluations to evaluate student performance, essentially eliminates tenure, and mandates online classes for students, has all been pushed onto the ballot for public vote. There’s a similar “veto referendum” in South Dakota to block implementation of legislation banning tenure and providing bonuses to top-performing teachers.

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  • Vapourwear||

    I can't imagine cannabis legalization passing as a ballot initiative. All the stinky hipsters in Boulder that I know are like "yeah...man, it's on the ballot, its totally gonna be legal someday, man."

    "Are you going to go vote for it?"

    "Naw, man, that's like, too much work, man."

  • InlineSkate||

    Glad to see people are coming to their senses in regards to the "Michigan Protect Our Jobs" Amendment.

    Hopefully the same is done in regards to the ridiculous renewable energy mandate.

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