A flurry of legislation has been passing between chambers this lame duck session, including union-busting bills, and now at least one bill up for consideration in the state Senate has been officially linked to theAmerican Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a conservative bill mill.
That legislation, spearheaded by Republican Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof of West Olive (who is term-limited) would require unions to re-certify their contracts every two years – something unions and their supporters have said would be very problematic. The bill also includes an appropriation, which means voters could not overturn the policy even if they wanted to. Majority Republicans has frequently employed this tactic in legislation to suppress the role of the people in Michigan government.
Information obtained by the Great Lakes Beacon and first reported by Bridge Magazine notes the union recertification has a striking similarity to model legislation issued by ALEC. For further context,ALEC has ties to conservative policy influencers and billionaires, the KochBrothers.
In fact, a side-by-side analysis shows the matching language in Meekhof’s bill and ALEC’s model policy.
It wouldn’t be unusual for Meekhof to push anti-union legislation, as he’s done so throughout the duration of his time in elected office. In fact, he was the namesake on Michigan’s so-called “right to work”laws from 2012. ALEC has since been identified as the culprit behind that law by numerous outlets. Meekhof is also on record as having used $100 in taxpayer funds to pay an ALEC membership in 2009.
When pressed by Bridge Magazine on the apparent connection, Meekhof spokesperson Amber McCann said the senator “was not influenced by any one entity, but rather just his own ideology” to introduce the union re-certification bill.
ALEC held a conference in Washington, D.C. just last week, during which Mark Janus, the man behind the U.S. Supreme Court decision that declared the collection of union fees was a form of political advocacy and thus unconstitutional, was a keynote speaker. Janus, according to a report by Governing Magazine, “urged legislators at the conference to champion ALEC’s ‘very, very positive’ model bills that would further restrict public and private unions’ power in their states.”
The Michigan legislature was in session last week, but earlier this year, watchdog organization the Center for Media and Democracy published a list of lawmakers and policy people who are members of ALEC and registered to attend its conference in Denver last year (which took place between July 19and July 21). They include:
- Sen Mike Green(R-Mayville);
- Bryan Harrison, government affairs for Amway, which is owned by the DeVos family;
- Jason Hayes, director of environmental policy for The Mackinac Center for Public Policy, which is also funded by the DeVos family;
- Rep. Brandt Iden (R-Oshtemo Township);
- Rep. Tim Kelly (R-Saginaw Township);
- Rep. Jim Lilly (R-Park Township);
- John McNamara, from the office of Rep. Michel Webber (R-Rochester Hills);
- Mark Pischea, president of the Conservative Energy Network and a partner at the Sterling Corporation, aLansing-based Republican consulting firm;
- Rep. Brett Roberts (R-EatonTownship);
- Melissa Seifert, government affairs for the AARP of Michigan;
- Rep. Jason Sheppard(R-Temperance);
- Rep. Scott VanSingel (R-Grant);
- Larry Ward, executive director of the Michigan Conservative Energy Forum;
- Rep. Michael Webber (R-Rochester Hills); and
- Brittany Zwierzchowski, executive director of the Conservative Energy Network and former senior associate of the Sterling Corporation.
Meanwhile, the Senate has also passed legislation prohibiting union workers from using paid leave time to conduct or attend union business. That legislation, and similar House legislation, was heard in theHouse Education Committee last week, and again Thursday. That committee is led by Rep. Tim Kelly (R-Saginaw Township), and it also includes the aforementioned Reps. Jim Lilly of Park Township and Brett Roberts of Eaton Township.