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Michigan court orders collective bargaining question to appear on ballot

The Michigan Court of Appeals [official website] on Monday ruled [opinion, PDF] that a proposal to preserve collective bargaining should be put on the upcoming November 6 ballot. The proposal would add a new article allowing workers to organize and bargain collectively with employers in terms of wages, benefits and other work-related issues. It would also amend a section of the constitution addressing collective bargaining rights for classified civil service employees. The "Protect Our Jobs" [advocacy website] initiative collected around 700,000 signatures, significantly more than required to put the proposal on the ballot, but faced difficulties when the Board of State Canvassers [official website] declined the measure. The Board had previously approved the petition but later deadlocked with a 2-2 vote, reasoning that backers failed to inform potential voters and petition signers about how the petition would change the state constitution. However, the Court of Appeals, in a 2-1 ruling, stated that supporters should not face an undue burden in changing the law and that the backers have informed petition signers of everything that was required under the law. Attorney General Bill Schuette, who opposes the measure, announced that he and others will appeal the decision to the state's Supreme Court [official websites].

Attempts to limit collective bargaining rights have been confronted with heavy opposition. Wisconsin faced a challenge against its legislation which limited the collective bargaining rights of public employee unions. In July the Wisconsin Supreme Court [official website] ruled [JURIST report] not to reopen a case challenging the state's Budget Repair Bill [text, PDF] because of a justice's refusal to recuse himself. Four votes were needed, but only three justices were in support of reopening the case. The court upheld [JURIST report] the bill in June 2011 thereby overruling the Dane County Circuit Court [official website] finding [JURIST report] a month earlier that legislators had violated the "open meetings" rule. The court ruled that the lower court had "invaded the legislature's constitutional powers." In March a judge for the US District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin [official website] ruled unconstitutional [JURIST report] certain provisions of the Budget Repair Bill reasoning that unions which supported Governor Scott Walker [official website] during his election were apparently given preferential treatment. Last November Ohio voters rejected [JURIST report] a bill which would have impacted Ohio's 400,000 public workers by limiting their ability to strike and collectively bargain for health insurance and pensions.

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