Michigan's 'financial martial law'
Lawmakers give the state authority to tear up union contracts in cities nearing financial collapse. Can Wisconsin-style protests be far behind?
Following a heated fight over public-employee union rights in Wisconsin, Michigan lawmakers have paved the way to impose "financial martial law" on cash-strapped cities and school districts. GOP Gov. Rick Snyder promptly signed the law, which give a state-appointed emergency financial manager authority to void union contracts and remove elected officials. Union leaders called the move an attack on collective bargaining rights. Will this inspire an explosion of protests like the ones in Madison? (Watch a local report about Michigan's law)
It should. This is "anti-democratic": Even if this would balance some budgets, says Brian Merchant at The Utopianist, "there's no getting around the fact that it would do so in a pretty bluntly anti-democratic manner." It eliminates workers' "rights to negotiate for their standard of living." It also "sets a dangerous" precedent by letting the state siphon power from "locally elected bodies, and the working class in general.""Michigan declares 'financial martial law': Democracy endangered?"
The public knows tough times require bold action: Organized labor only managed to drag out 3,000 or so people to "yell and whine about this," says Moe Lane at his blog. That's because, contrary to the claims of the "faux-populists" who are complaining, the emergency manager would only be called in to stave off bankruptcy for school districts and towns "in near-terminal fiscal shape." Breaking "unsustainable union contracts" is necessary, and everyone knows it."Michigan passes critical union bargaining reform law"
As long as power isn't abused, this is fine: The critics' fears are overblown, says the Detroit Free Press in an editorial. Nobody's going to "run roughshod over the democratic process," as long as the governor and the treasurer use these new powers "sparingly." Michigan needed more "tools to keep school districts and cities from wallowing in financial trouble." Now it has them."New state financial tools will help fix budgets, not bust unions"