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Michigan Wants to Ban Union Release Time

Republicans are trying to get one last anti-union bill passed before Rick Snyder's term ends

Kris LaGrange's picture
Nov 28, 2018

With just a few weeks left in Rick Snyder’s reign as the anti-union Governor of Michigan, the Republican legislature is trying to fast-track a number of bills for him to sign. One such bill would eliminate union time for public employees.

The bill, which passed the Senate by a 20-18 vote, would prohibit many public entities from entering into or renewing bargaining agreements that require or allow paid release time for an employee to conduct union business if it is funded by the public employer. Another bill would bar school workers from accruing service credit toward their pensions while on union release time.

“Union release time allows important labor-management work to be conducted during business hours, benefiting both sides by allowing for regular contact between labor and management representatives to process day-to-day employee issues,” said the Michigan Education Association (MEA). “These agreements also allow for more robust cooperation in the form of work groups and committees that improve performance, efficiency, and safety in the workplace. Without release time, these conversations must happen after work hours, which could mean increased expense and less timely and efficient problem-solving.”

In efforts to divide public employee unions and to keep some short-sided police unions on their side, Republicans have granted a carve-out for law enforcement and corrections unions. Law enforcement unions in Michigan have of course been silent during this whole ordeal, a spineless tact not appreciated by most labor leaders in a once union-strong state.  

Estimates from the Senate Fiscal Agency say that the state spends about $2.7 million on educators who are on union release time. They also found that the pension bill would cost the state an additional $400,000 in “stranded” pension costs.

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