Epstein on Michigan's Proposal 2

The Last Gasp of Union Power
Richard A. Epstein
Defining Ideas
October 31, 2012

The hottest topic in Michigan today is not the looming presidential election. Rather, it is Proposal 2—“Protect Our Jobs,” which will constitutionalize collective bargaining in the state for public sector unions. As drafted, the proposal gives to “the people . . . the rights to organize together to form, join, or assist labor organizations, and to bargain collectively with a public or private employer through an exclusive representative of the employees’ choosing”—provided that this proposal is not preempted, or overridden, by federal labor law.

It is not clear from its general language whether Proposal 2 will roll back any of the modest reforms that Michigan now has put in place as a counterweight to union power, but the initiative is certainly intended to bolster union power in the state.

Michigan, long an economic basket-case, has started to turn the corner under Republican Governor Rick Snyder, who knows that the state’s fortunes won’t improve if it doubles down on a system of labor law that has proven itself to be a major failure. As the governor has argued, Proposal 2 is a step in the wrong direction.

Richard A. Epstein