Commission takes no action on union request


IRONWOOD — The Ironwood City Commission took no action Monday on a proposed agency fee agreement requested by the local employees union.

Michigan officially became a “freedom-to-work” state on Thursday, meaning employees can choose whether or not to join unions.

The Local 1538 union, represented by Robert Murphy, sought to have the city commission Monday adopt an agency fee agreement that would require all newly hired employees to pay the equivalent of union dues.

“Michigan American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 25 believes the legislation to be harmful to employers and labor alike,” Murphy wrote in a letter accompanying the proposed fee agreement.

But city attorney Michael Pope told city commissioners the agreement was unacceptable for several reasons, including the fact the new law gives each employee the option of whether or not to join the union and it states an employee can’t lose his or her job for not joining and not paying union dues.

In addition, Pope said none of the terms of the proposed agency fee agreement benefit the city, nor the employees.

“This agreement solely benefits AFSCME,” Pope said. “It’s not in the city’s best interests to enter into the agreement.”

Furthermore, the agreement would run for nine years, through 2022.

Commissioners noted the union contract will run for another two years.

“We’re not compelled to do anything now,” commissioner Rick Semo said.

The measure applies to labor contracts that are extended or renewed after Wednesday. Many unionized employees won’t be affected for months or years.

Other governmental entities have been approached with the same proposed union agreement, Pope indicated, and he said he advised them against adopting the fee agreement.

Commissioner Brandon Tauer said no action was taken at a wastewater board meeting.

Joseph T. Kuker is the local union president.

Murphy spoke to the Gogebic County Personnel and Negotiations Committee on March 14, when he pointed out some employees will receive benefits of representation from the union without paying “their fair share of those benefits,” according to the minutes of that meeting.

The county board, meeting as a committee of the whole then, did not take any action on a request for a two-year extension to the present contract, with a wage and benefit reopener for both years.

Gov. Rick Snyder signed the “freedom-to-work” legislation on Dec. 11, making Michigan the 24th state to enact such a law.

The new law doesn’t prohibit unions, nor collective bargaining.

Firefighters and police officers aren’t affected by the legislation because of Public Act 312, which reflects the hazardous nature of their jobs.

Across the state, union organizers asked people to wear red Thursday to protest the new law.

Snyder said the right-to-work law is “done” and “over with” and called it “a significant milestone” that “will bring jobs to Michigan.”

He said the new law “isn’t about being anti-union,” but is “about being pro-worker.”

Four courts are weighing a host of legal issues with the new law, but no judge was expected to rule this week.

Cases are pending in Ingham County, the state Court of Appeals, the Michigan Supreme Court and a federal court in Detroit.

Editor’s note: The Associated Press contributed to this story.


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