The term “collective bargaining” is used in the Proposal 2 ballot language as if everyone knows exactly what it means, yet most people only have a vague understanding of this legal construct. The term is misleading because it leaves out the most important element — mandatory. Economist Charles Baird spelled it out in a recent column:

Politicians have created mandatory good-faith bargaining between employers and certified unions representing employees. Workers are coerced into association with unions through majority vote, and employers are forced into a bargaining association with the unions. The bargaining must be in “good faith,” which means that no take-it-or-leave- it offers may be made. All of this is coerced, not free, association.

Collective bargaining is consistent with human rights when a union, representing only voluntary members, bargains on behalf of them with an employer who agrees to bargain with the union. Both sides would be able simply to say no and walk away. The ordinary common law of contract would apply.

Moreover, mandatory good-faith collective bargaining in the government sector violates basic principles of democratic government. . . (It) is done behind closed doors with the general public having neither access nor voice. Terms and conditions of employment in the government sector are matters of public policy that have, among other things, significant effects on taxes. The government agencies that employ workers are typically part of the executive branch. Because bargaining is mandatory the executive branch is compelled to bargain with government employee unions (GEUs) on matters of public policy.

Because of “good faith” rules, the agency bureaucrats that allegedly sit on the opposite side of the collective-bargaining table from the GEUs must get consent on some matters of public policy, thus the GEUs have veto power over those matters. In effect the GEUs are coequal with the executive branch of government in all matters that come under the scope of collective bargaining. They are a fourth branch of government.

During government-sector collective bargaining the agency heads that negotiate with the GEUs do not represent the interests of taxpayers. The bureaucrats want larger and larger budgets, and the GEUs want higher and higher wages, salaries, and retirement benefits. . .

In addition to leaving out “mandatory,” the ballot language in Proposal 2 is misleading in another way: It does not explain that — with the exception of preventing Michigan from ever stopping employers from making union dues or fee payments a condition of employment — the measure would have no effect on the unionization of workers in the private sector. This proposed amendment to the state constitution is of, by and for government employee unions.

Moreover, it would explicitly grant this government union “fourth branch” of government an extraordinary primacy over the other three branches. Under Proposal 2, provisions of government employee collective bargaining agreements negotiated behind closed doors would trump state laws enacted in the open by democratically elected legislators in Lansing.