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Thursday, November 15, 2012

A line in the Michigan sand

Voters in Michigan, who voted for President Obama 54% to 45% over Mitt Romney, did something that might surprise many people.  They defeated state Proposition 2, the so-called "Protect Our Jobs," initiative by a margin of 58% to 42%.

Proposition 2 would have amended the Michigan State Constitution to make collective bargaining a right for both private and public sector unions.  Proposition 2 would have preempted Michigan legislators from passing the same type of law limiting collective bargaining by public employees that neighboring Wisconsin did.  Wisconsin unions responded to the law, known as Act 10, championed by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker by initiating recall efforts against state legislators and the governor himself.  These recall efforts failed and Act 10 remains on the books, though it is being challenged in court.  A previous court challenge to Act 10 on different grounds was previously rejected by the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

For Michigan, a state that is home to the United Auto Worker, this is a remarkable rejection of a union-sponsored initiative.  Michigan voters will not give carte blanche to unions, nor will they tie the hands of their elected representatives in dealing with public sector unions.  The overwhelming rejection of Proposition 2 shows that voters in Michigan did not view the fight in Wisconsin as an attack on unions, and there is a limit to voters' tolerance of labor demands, even in a traditionally labor-friendly state like Michigan.

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