Thomas Ivacko is the administrator and program manager of the Ford School's Center for Local, State and Urban Policy. He oversees the Michigan Public Policy Survey program.
The most recent Michigan Public Policy Survey here at the Ford School included a battery of questions on public sector employee unions among local governments in the state of Michigan. So these are counties, cities, townships and villages all across the state and what we found out is that 27 percent of these local governments have employee labor unions, a relatively small percentage. But among those jurisdictions 78 percent conducted negotiations in the last year on a variety of topics, such as employee pay, fringe benefits, staffing levels and work rule changes.
Across these four topics, the most common outcome was union concessions on fringe benefit issues. Among jurisdictions that negotiated on this topic 69 percent report that labor unions made concessions on fringe benefits; only 5 percent report that the jurisdiction made concessions.
Well, we think that these union concessions are driven by a number of things. Certainly some of these state laws are having an impact, but a number of our local government leaders have told us as well in their jurisdictions the unions came to the table this year ready to make concessions because they understood that their employers, these local government units, are in fiscal distress. The bad news for unionized employees among Michigan's local governments is 60 percent of these jurisdictions expect to seek new concessions in the upcoming year. Among jurisdictions that are significantly less able to meet their fiscal needs, 85 percent expect to seek new concessions from their labor unions.