TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — It’s hardly a return to the Depression era, when company guards roughed up labor organizers at auto plants. But times are tough for unions in the Rust Belt, even in such a longtime bastion as Michigan. Here, emergency managers have been given the power to throw out union contracts in financially struggling cities.
Now, after a series of setbacks at the hands of Republican governors and legislatures, labor is attempting a bold gambit: a first-of-its-kind ballot initiative in the Nov. 6 election that would put collective bargaining rights in the Michigan constitution — and out of lawmakers’ reach.
If successful, the strategy could serve as a model for other states. Although four other states guaranteed bargaining rights in their constitutions decades ago, none did so through a statewide ballot initiative.
A labor coalition called Protect Working Families has poured about $6.5 million into ads supporting the proposal, according to Michigan Campaign Finance Network.