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Michigan's Public Employee Relations Act

Paul Kersey, for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, analyzes (leads to PDF) the sort of state enactment that really ought to be more controversial. From the executive summary:

PERA was based on the National Labor Relations Act, a law that was designed for private, for-profit employers. The NLRA has not always worked well in the private sector; applying the structure of the NLRA to government has created even more complications:

  • The incentives created by PERA tend to push local officials toward tax increases rather than spending cuts.

  • Unless local officials are prepared for a bargaining impasse, unions have an effective veto over any part of a local government's budget dedicated to personnel costs. Personnel costs can make up as much as 80 percent of a local government's budget.

  • Work rules found in collective bargaining agreements add to the scope of the "union veto." In practice, government union negotiators can manipulate any political issue that can be expressed in terms of employee compensation, job duties or work standards and be included in a collective bargaining agreement.

  • Court rulings have consistently held that collective bargaining trumps local statutes and even local charters. PERA has arguably subverted the home-rule principles expressed in the state constitution.

  • With agency fees effectively granting millions of dollars in guaranteed revenue to unions with strong political tendencies and little financial accountability, it would be fair to say that PERA has created a permanent, taxpayer-funded lobby for big government.

The government employee unions created by PERA may be the single largest
obstacle to restoring the state's prosperity.



Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Manhattan Institute


Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.