“Michigan Governor’s Anti-Union Power Grab Is Unconstitutional”

According to the folks at ThinkProgress, there’s one little problem with our Governor’s plan to appoint emergency financial managers throughout the State and empower them to void collective bargaining agreements… it’s unconstitutional.

Here’s a clip:

…There’s a pretty serious problem with this power grab, however — invoking it would violate the Constitution. The Constitution forbids state laws “impairing the Obligation of Contracts.” This provision provides a robust limit on a state’s ability to dissolve contracts between the government and a private party. As the Supreme Court explained in United States Trust Co. v. New Jersey, state laws impairing such contracts must be “reasonable and necessary to serve an important public purpose.”

The bill does contain some language requiring the emergency manager and the state treasurer to determine that they are not violating this constitutional limit before a collective bargaining agreement can be blown up, but Snyder’s own budget gives the lie to any claim that an assault on working Americans is “necessary” to ensure that Michigan governments can pay their bills. Snyder proposed a massive $1.73 billion business tax cut even as he was arguing that his anti-union power grab was necessary to restore the state’s fiscal balance.

The consequences of Snyder’s actions could be stark. If a state is free to break contracts whenever they feel like it, then no one will agree to do business with the state. Investors will refuse to buy the state’s bonds, and state contractors will demand all payments upfront out of fear that the state will accept their work and then tear up the contract requiring the workers to be paid. Creditors will charge the state enormous interest rates to secure against the risk that the state will just waive its hand and make its obligation to repay go away.

In other words, Snyder is so determined to chip away at collective bargaining, he’s demanded a power that he cannot constitutionally use and that would drive his state into an even deeper financial hole if he ever tried…

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  1. TeacherPatti
    Posted March 16, 2011 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

    Totally, except that someone has to sue and the MI Supreme Court has to agree that it’s unconstitutional. Hopefully someone will sue though and at least get some left leaning judge to enter some sort of restraining order stopping the law from taking effect, but I’m not holding my breath.

  2. Posted March 16, 2011 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

    Given the current makeup of the US Supreme Court, I wouldn’t expect to find too much sympathy there either.

  3. Posted March 17, 2011 at 6:59 am | Permalink

    Somewhat off-topic, but I know I’ve heard the question of whether there’s any sort of constitutional / due process concern with the idea of sending in an “unelected” EFM to manage a local government. This piece from Slate provides a decent explanation that generally jives with my understanding.

    Short form is that there is no legal or constitutional right to local government or a particular local government:

    In 1907, the Supreme Court decided, in Hunter v. Pittsburgh, that under the Constitution local governments are nothing more than “convenient agencies for exercising … such powers as may be entrusted to them” by the state. As a result, “the state may modify or withdraw all such power, may take without compensation such property, hold it for itself, or vest it with other agencies, expand or contract the territorial area, unite the whole or part of it with another municipality, repeal the charter and destroy the corporation … with or without the consent of the citizens, or even against their protest.”

  4. Edward
    Posted March 17, 2011 at 8:13 am | Permalink

    Thanks, Murph.

    I wonder if anyone at U-M Law School is looking into this.

  5. Jsam
    Posted March 17, 2011 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    Thought you all might be interested to know that as I changed my avatar on Ann Arbor.com to a Recall Rick avatar, they removed my avatar!!
    I asked why and they said you couldn’t use real people’s pictures. When I asked why they have allowed a poster to use a ridiculous picture of President Obama for the past year, the response was that they allow that because it was a composite picture and didn’t look like a real person! It IS a picture of Obama !!
    They said it was a “gray area”….

    I guess that tells you that Ann Arbor .com is protecting Slick Rick!

  6. TeacherPatti
    Posted March 17, 2011 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    Jsam, I know exactly what picture you are talking about…kind of like Obama and a horse or something and I think the user is Marshal Applegate or something very similar. That picture creeps me out.

    And come on, it’s not like you had a picture of Rick sucking somebody’s dick or something…the right to recall is an important one.

  7. Jsam
    Posted March 17, 2011 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    LOL, TeacherPatti, exactly!
    And interestingly…..Marshall AppleWHITE (no intent to be racist there..not at all!) with the Obama picture posted right after I told them to remove my account from my site and wrote something like “like your avatar, but you union people are going down” or something similar. Later his post mysteriously disappeared!!! It wasn’t taken down with a “removed” comment…just disappeared. I guess they didn’t want anyone to connect him with my avatar removal. I am guessing at this point he works for them. How else did he know as they were removing it?
    Actually because I post the liberal viewpoint I brought them a lot of traffic. So it’s their loss. The right wingers sit all day clicking their “like” button, removing their cookies and clicking again. It’s gotten laughable.
    I was just amazed that they would have the gall to tell me that their policy was that you couldn’t use pics of living people…..then having to tap dance around another excuse! LOL

  8. Tommy
    Posted March 17, 2011 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    Patti – slight correction. should be sucking someone’s Koch not dick! Too bad he doesn’t go by the name Dick. Great protest sign would be ‘Dick Snyder before he dicks you’!

  9. Jsam
    Posted March 17, 2011 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    Well I did hear from AnnArbor.com and they have changed their policy to include all pictures of living people can’t be avatars. So that’s fine.
    I appreciated their consideration. I felt it was political and got ALL upset.
    I’m better now. Thanks for commiserating!

  10. Slam Jam
    Posted March 17, 2011 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

    The ACLU needs to step it up and defend this

  11. heidi
    Posted March 17, 2011 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

    Things that make you go hmmmmm…..

    175 or so EFMs in training
    170 places on the eligible distressed list:

  12. Posted March 17, 2011 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, Heidi.

    Ypsi, you’ll all be glad to know, is on the list.

  13. Posted March 17, 2011 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

    And, thanks, Slam Jam, for making me feel guilty for letting my ACLU membership lapse.

  14. Mike Shecket
    Posted March 17, 2011 at 8:25 pm | Permalink

    That clause cuts both ways, or at least has over time. Before New Deal era Supreme Court decisions, the Contract Clause was held to prevent states from instituting labor laws, like the minimum wage. The theory was that if an employer and employee make an otherwise legally enforceable contract that says the employee will work 100 hours a week for 5 cents an hour, the state can’t step in and invalidate the contract.

  15. TeacherPatti
    Posted March 18, 2011 at 8:07 am | Permalink

    Tommy–ZING! Ha ha! :)
    Jsam, well I guess that’s okay then…as long as I don’t have to look at that wonky Obama horse avatar!

  16. heidi
    Posted March 18, 2011 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

    @teacherpatti….that wonky Obama horse avatar is STILL FREAKIN THERE!!! Was is up with that?

  17. TeacherPatti
    Posted March 18, 2011 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

    Nooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!! GO AWAY!!!!!!!!! I hate that damned thing.
    In other news, I am F’d in A…judge gave Rob Bobb total power over my district…my union rep expects union to be gone in sixty days. Fuck.

  18. heidi
    Posted March 19, 2011 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    That’s horrible!! Sorry to hear such news….I too work in a public job (Library) and am watching things closely. Our library was hurting before..not sure what’s going to happen.

  19. Posted March 19, 2011 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    Marshall Applewhite trolls on AnnArbor.com? OMG it’s true then. Semi-related, this list is missing some locals, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_people_who_have_claimed_to_be_Jesus

    The municipal version of the EFM bill was pretty much written for Hamtramck.

  20. JSam
    Posted March 20, 2011 at 6:15 am | Permalink

    Yup, I have asked to have it removed again…they removed it, he/she put it back…..perhaps MA really is Jesus he can keep resurrecting.

  21. TaterSalad
    Posted March 20, 2011 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

    “The principal feature of American libtardism is sanctimoniousness. By loudly denouncing all bad things–war and hunger and date rape–liberals testify to their own terrific goodness. More important, they promote themselves to membership in a self-selecting elite of those who care deeply about such things… It’s a kind of natural aristocracy, and the wonderful thing about this aristocracy is that you don’t have to be brave, smart, strong, or even lucky to join it, you just have to be libtard.”

    – P. J. O’Rourke:

  22. JSam
    Posted March 20, 2011 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

    Republicans are the party that says government doesn’t work….then get elected and prove it.
    P.J. O’Rourke

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