LETTER: Not 'No on Proposal 2'



On Monday, October 29, CM Life ran an editorial suggesting that folks vote "no" on Proposal 2. I wish here to respond to that editorial.

Full disclosure: I'm the president-elect of the CMU Faculty Association (better known `round these parts as the FA). We're a union. We're one of the unions supporting Proposal 2. So you might think I'm pretty biased on this issue. But as any of my logic students will tell you, dismissing what one says just because they say it is usually inappropriate. It is especially inappropriate when the person provides reasons in support of what they say. So, to avoid any inappropriateness, feel free to view me as though I'm a model, displaying some reasons in defense of Proposal 2 for you to look over. That is, consider the following on its own merits.

That I'm writing this letter is neither here nor there. CM Life's editorial board recommends a "no" vote on Prop. 2, because it is an unnecessary and potentially harmful power grab." It is "unnecessary" because "any right-to-work legislation in Michigan has been shot down instantly," and there seems not to be a push for such legislation.

But, just last year, a piece of legislation called Public Act 54 became a key issue on our campus as the administration and the FA bargained a new contract. That piece of legislation concerns the conditions under which an employer needs to dole out raises people have earned after a collective bargaining agreement expires. CM Life covered this issue a number of times, most straightforwardly on August 31, 2011. P. A. 54 is not right-to-work legislation but legislation that whittles away at collective bargaining rights. Proposal 2 aims to stop such attempts before there are no collective bargaining rights left.

CM Life's editorial board seems to think that Prop. 2 is "potentially harmful" because, if it passes, "even drug testing for cops and firefighters" would have to be bargained. This is an odd concern, given that Article XI, Section 5 of Michigan's constitution already gives state police collective bargaining rights. I quote: "State Police Troopers and Sergeants shall. . . have the right to bargain collectively with their employer concerning conditions of their employment, compensation, hours, working conditions, retirement, pensions and other aspects of employment except promotions. . . " If the editorial board's concern was warranted, surely it would be warranted by concerns about State Police. But such concerns are unavailable.

The editorial board also seems to think that Prop. 2 is harmful because "expensive contracts and pensions. . . negotiated by unions" are to blame for various local and state financial crises.

Perhaps CM Life's editorial board would be willing to provide examples for its readers. It'd be no easy task, since establishing causal claims is difficult, even with things much simpler than local or state finances (think about trying to establish that your friend scratched the Carly Rae Jepsen CD that you loaned him or her. . . ). But this point cuts two ways — it'd also be difficult for defenders of collective bargaining to show that such contracts did not cause various local and state crises. What this suggests is getting embroiled in a discussion on this point won't favor either side, and better reasons should be what sways one's vote on Proposal 2.

Finally, the editorial board seems to think that people should be able to opt out of unions. Under Prop. 2, they can (just as they can now).

This letter is already too long, so let me wrap up by suggesting that readers vote on Proposal 2 for good reasons. Whether you vote for or against Prop. 2, get informed and think carefully before voting. Joshua A. Smith

Associate Professor of Philosophy


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