Continued from page 1

“Things like last-in, first-out, teacher tenure reform that we passed in Michigan — those are no longer on the table,” he said. “If Proposal 2 passes, unions can bargain for them. It makes it so that the people’s elected representatives have no say legislatively over wages, hours and terms and conditions of employment. It’s Civics 101. Constitution trumps legislation.”

A poll of 600 likely voters conducted by the Lansing, Mich., firm EPIC-MRA from Sept. 8-11 found 48 percent supporting Proposal 2 and 43 percent opposing it. Nine percent of state voters remained undecided, and the margin of error was 4 percentage points, making it a tight contest on a state ballot that also features a competitive presidential race and four other measures.

Close to 18 percent of Michigan workers are members of unions. Among those who are employed in the private sector, about 12 percent are unionized.

Wendy Block, the director of health policy and human resources at the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, calls the proposal “dangerous and unprecedented.”

She noted that no other state has a similar provision. If passed, she said, Proposal 2 would undermine Michigan’s competitiveness.

“The general impact of such a measure is that it will only protect 3 percent of the state’s population, leaving 97 percent to foot the bill,” Ms. Block said. “Business leaders are extremely concerned, as should be local and state officials and citizens of this state. Anything that is a subject of collective bargaining cannot be decided by the legislature, or local units of government, or school districts moving forward.”

Strained budgets

The law would add another burden to already-stressed state and local budgets, she said.

“The proposal doesn’t enumerate one by one, so anything addressed in any collective-bargaining agreement across the state could nullify state and local laws on the books,” she said. “Even the proponents themselves say they don’t know how many laws this could impact; it may be 80, it may be more or less. The possibilities are virtually endless. It will ultimately be up to the court to decide.”

The governor’s budget director, John Nixon, recently told the Stateline.com news service that Mr. Snyder is not opposed to labor unions but fears the cost to the budget and the unforeseen fallout financially and legally if Proposal 2 passes.

“We like bargaining with our employee unions, but you’ve got to have the right balance,” he told the news service. He cited in particular Lansing’s recent efforts to cap financial commitments made to retirees, caps that Proposal 2 could call into question.

While public unions are certain to gain with the measure’s passage, private-sector unions may not be affected so broadly as they are covered by federal law. Other states are watching closely as political battles over union power have been waged in such places as Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana, which recently became a right-to-work state.

“If it passes in Michigan, watch out, because it’s coming to a state near you and you could very likely see it coming to states like California, for example, that have the constitutional amendment ballot-initiative process,” Mr. Vernuccio said.