MPPS report: local leaders say unions again made most of the concessions in contract negotiations

October 20, 2013

Local government leaders in Michigan report their employees' unions made more concessions in negotiations this year than the jurisdictions did, according to a University of Michigan survey.

Among the 26 percent of Michigan's local governments that have employee unions, 73 percent report conducting negotiations in the last year over new labor contracts. Even as policy issues—including passage of Right-To-Work, the Detroit bankruptcy and the placement of emergency managers—keep a spotlight on public employee labor unions, local government officials increasingly report they have good or excellent relationships with unions.

The poll, part of the Michigan Public Policy Survey series at the U-M Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy's Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy (CLOSUP), reports:
63 percent of local government leaders said employee labor unions made concessions more frequently in negotiations over fringe benefits, compared to 69 percent in 2012.
15 percent of local leaders report that these fringe benefits negotiations resulted in mutual concessions by both administrations and unions, up from 5 percent in 2012.
52 percent of jurisdictions expect to seek another round of concessions from their employee unions, including 88 percent of the state's largest jurisdictions that report declining fiscal health.
"Our local governments are still working to cut costs to put the fiscal house in order, as revenues begin to recover slowly after the Great Recession," said Tom Ivacko, program director for CLOSUP. "Unions largely are partnering in the process, especially on fringe benefit expenses."

The study, conducted April 8 to June 9, involved surveys sent via hardcopy and the Internet to top elected and appointed officials in all counties, cities, villages and townships in Michigan. A total of 1,350 jurisdictions returned valid surveys, for a 73 percent response rate. The survey had a margin of error of 1.4 percentage points either way.