Kent-Ionia Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO

Growing and strengthening west Michigan's middle class

Michigan’s new election law specifically targets unions’ ability to collect PAC money


Photo courtesy MLive

LANSING January 8, 2015– Most people are aware that labor unions are restricted by law on how dues dollars can be spent for political activity. Which is why unions oftentimes set up PACs– Political Action Committees– to raise money so their members can voluntarily support candidates who support working families.

So it should come as no surprise that politicians who don’t support workers’ issues are doing everything in their power to destroy union PACs. In Michigan, legislators recently snuck through a bill that would make it illegal for all employers in the state to set up paycheck withdrawals for union PACs, making it that much harder for working men and women to support candidates that support labor.

In the days after it was pushed through the legislature, lawmakers from both parties, dozens of local government leaders and thousands of Michigan voters spoke out against it, and urged Snyder to veto SB 571. But on Wednesday the governor ignored their pleas and signed it into law– making it now illegal for employers (both public and private) to collect PAC donations for unions on behalf of their members.

From the Detroit News:

[Gov. Rick] Snyder’s office confirmed Wednesday the new law would, for example, prohibit Ford Motor Co. from deducting voluntary contributions to the UAW Community Action Program from a unionized autoworker’s paycheck.

It does a few more very bad things as well.

From Eclectablog:

[Senate Bill 571, now Public Act 269 does the following:]

  • Prohibits public bodies like government agencies (think librarians and Secretary of State staff) from distributing information about ballot proposals 60 days before the election.
  • [Eliminates] a February filing deadline for independent and political committees and [reestablishes] the requirement to file an annual report covering the period from October 21st through December 31st.
  • Effectively [doubles] the amount of money PACs can donate to candidates for the second time in two years, effectively quadrupling the limit since 2013.
  • Prohibits corporations from collecting contributions from its employees to a union’s PAC.

The folks at Eclectablog go on to say this about the provision on union PACs:

If you want to talk about “intrusive government overreach” and “government interference in private companies and individuals”, this element of PA 269 is the poster child for that conversation. This prohibition isn’t aimed at taxpayer-funded entities like schools or government agencies. It literally prohibits ANY company, privately-held or otherwise, from making payroll deductions that will end up in the hands of unions even if the employee agrees to it and/or the union and the company have a contract to do so.

The rationale for this being given by Republicans and anti-union groups is, of course, asinine and bogus. Here’s an example and it’s a true eyeroll statement:

The Michigan Freedom Fund, a conservative political organization with ties to the wealthy DeVos family in west Michigan, celebrated the governor’s signing of the bill.

“It’s one of those reforms that I think is positive for the state and allows employers to stay focused on their core business,” said Greg McNeilly, chairman of the Michigan Freedom Fund and a GOP political consultant.

The law ends a longstanding practice of labor unions getting companies to pay for the administration of collecting union PAC contributions, McNeilly said.

“Why should unions force employers to collect their political dues?” he asked.

There’s so much wrong with these three sentences that it boggles the [mind]. First of all, nobody is “forcing” employers into doing this. It’s usually part of the contract negotiations that both employers and workers agree to.

Second, the idea that this is somehow a distraction for employers that prevents them from “staying focused on their core business” is laughable to the point that I can’t believe McNeilly made it with a straight face.

Finally, the reference to “paying for the administration” of these payroll deductions is LOLingly ROFLable. A payroll deduction is done by a computer. It’s automatic, electronic, and consumes almost no resources whatsoever.

The writer at Eclectablog sums up this part of the bill as a blatant attempt to further screw over unions in Michigan, and says this serves as a solution to a problem that never existed to begin with.

“It’s not pro-business, it’s blatant union-busting,” he writes.

Kent-Ionia Labor Council President Sean Egan (IBEW 275) last week wrote an opinion piece slamming this legislation.

When someone tells you that their goals are to ensure voters are more informed, while at the same time expanding political involvement of “dark money” and picking away at union rights— all in the name of strengthening democracy— you have to wonder what their real motivation is.

So just to get this straight: The Republican-led legislature, with no Democratic votes, passed a bill that will double the amount of PAC money that’s allowed to be used on elections in our state with less public accountability, while at the same time making it nearly impossible for unions to collect money for their PACs. The bill also makes it illegal for cities, school districts and other local governments to use public funds to educate their residents about upcoming tax initiatives. What this means, come election time, is that the majority of information and advertising being put out to the public will come from wealthy, right-wing corporate interests.

How it happened

Brian Dickerson from the Detroit Free Press wrote a column last month with the headline, “All Michigan Republicans Want is a Permanent Majority,” stating that this legislation is evidence that these politicians have no concern for protecting residents’ rights or making our elections more fair, and are simply obsessed with guaranteeing their party stays in power.

Dickerson describes the underhanded methods Republican leadership took to get this election “reform” passed:

It was the week before Christmas, the last day both houses of Michigan’s state Legislature would convene in 2015.

About 5 p.m., as dusk dissolved into darkness outside the state Capitol in Lansing, Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive, sent word to reporters that his chamber would shortly adjourn for the year, apparently without taking up a controversial bill that Democrats had complained would tilt the electoral playing field in Republicans’ favor.

But across the Capitol, House Speaker Kevin Cotter, R-Mt. Pleasant, was just getting to work on an ambitious scheme to rewrite Michigan’s voting rules and campaign finance law in time for next year’s general election. Worried that his plans would go for naught if Meekhof’s Republican caucus went home for the holidays before rubber-stamping them, Cotter asked his counterpart in the Senate to sit tight a few hours longer.

So instead of calling it a night, the senate majority leader called a recess.

Even to observers whose expectations of Michigan politics have been diminished by decades of exposure to Michigan politicians, the audacity of what followed was impressive.

For 5½ hours, Republican state legislators personified the government they have spent the last several years warning us about: arrogant, contemptuous of its own rules, indifferent to public opinion and focused single-mindedly on the preservation of its own political power.

When the GOP juggernaut had run its course, Michigan voters had forfeited a privilege they have twice voted to protect, and a bipartisan effort to expand absentee voting had been squashed.

The anonymous third-party donors who bankroll most political campaigns had strengthened their grip on state elections, and the governor who has made transparency his mantra was poised to become just the latest poster boy for partisan hypocrisy.

When [State Rep. Lisa Posthumus Lyons, (R-Alto)’s] committee voted unanimously to recommend its passage [last month], SB 571 was a 12-page bill that reduced paperwork, but not disclosure requirements, for political action committees across the state. It had breezed through the state Senate with nary an objection from lawmakers of either party.

But when it emerged from a Republican caucus room Wednesday evening, SB 571 had metastasized into a 53-page behemoth that included GOP-friendly amendments to 10 different sections of Michigan’s Campaign Finance Act. It was adopted by both houses late Wednesday night without a single Democratic vote or amendment, and [only] after the Republican majority voted to clear the Senate chamber of Democratic staffers and lock the senators themselves inside.

Organized labor remains in the cross hairs of the wealthy corporate interests in Michigan, and that won’t change until we have true bi-partisan election reform in this state.


This entry was posted on January 8, 2016 by in Political news and tagged , , , , , , , , , , .

Kent-Ionia Labor Council

The Kent-Ionia Labor Council, AFL-CIO is a coalition of west Michigan labor unions in Kent and Ionia Counties, based in Grand Rapids.

Address, phone, email

918 Benjamin NE
Grand Rapids, MI 49503

%d bloggers like this: