County Board to Revisit Right-to-Work Issue

Washtenaw County commissioner Andy LaBarre intends to bring forward a resolution at the county board’s Feb. 6, 2013 meeting related to Michigan’s new right-to-work legislation – including direction to renegotiate union contracts. He emailed a copy of his resolution to fellow commissioners and the media on Jan. 30. [.pdf of LaBarre's resolution]

In addition to formally condemning the right-to-work law and urging the state legislature to pass SB 95 and SB 96 – bills that would repeal the law – LaBarre’s resolution also “directs the County Administrator and the Director of Human Resources to engage in expedited negotiations, as requested by the Unions, with the goal of reaching four (4) year agreements to protect and extend each bargaining unit’s union security provisions, as well as enter into a Letter of Understanding separate from the existing collective bargaining agreements for a period of ten (10) years.”

This is the same approach recently authorized by the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority’s board at its Jan. 17, 2013 meeting. [See Chronicle coverage: "AATA OK's Labor, Agency Fee Accords"]

LaBarre – an Ann Arbor commissioner representing District 7, who took office in early January – had previously indicated his interest in bringing forward a resolution opposing the right-to-work law. As chair of the board’s working sessions, he led a meeting on Jan. 3 with a lengthy discussion of that issue. [Chronicle coverage: "County Board Weighs Right-to-Work Response"]

The controversial right-to-work law was passed late last year by the Republican-controlled House and Senate, and signed by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder. The law, which takes effect in March, will make it illegal to require employees to support unions financially as a condition of their employment. It’s viewed by Democrats as a way to undercut support for labor organizations that have historically backed the Democratic Party. On the Washtenaw County board of commissioners, seven of the nine commissioners – including LaBarre – are Democrats.

Unions represent 85% of the 1,321 employees in Washtenaw County government.

The county board’s Feb. 6 meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. in the county administration building at 220 N. Main in Ann Arbor.


  1. By Alan Goldsmith
    January 30, 2013 at 3:37 pm | permalink

    Kudos to Andy LaBarre for putting this forward. I was afraid this would end up a feel good meaningless memo of outrage to Lansing but this proposal seems to be a well thought out response that is respectful of worker rights and I appreciate his leadership on this. And kudos to the AATA for doing this for there workers as well (over the objections of Tom Crawford…). Looking forward to passage by the County Commissioners at their next meeting.

  2. January 30, 2013 at 3:40 pm | permalink

    Re: [1] ” … (over the objections of Tom Crawford).”

    Alan can you provide some explanation of what you’re referring to?

  3. By Alan Goldsmith
    January 30, 2013 at 3:47 pm | permalink

    Oops. I meant Eli Cooper and his attempt to delay the AATA vote. Sorry for the error.

  4. January 30, 2013 at 4:11 pm | permalink

    As I recall, Eli Cooper’s objection was procedural, not substantive. He properly questioned the request to ratify a contract that was not available for Board members to review. I don’t think he opposed the content or purpose of the union security agreement.