Michigan Ballot Measure Could Protect Drug-Dealing Teachers

Lachlan Markay /

A teachers’ union contract in Bay City, MI, has become a focal point in the battle over a ballot measure in that state that seeks to provide legal guarantees for union collective bargaining agreements — and invalidate laws that conflict with those agreements.

The contract allows teachers to show up for work drunk five times, or under the influence of drugs three times, before being fired. Under the agreement, a teacher caught selling drugs to students would be reprimanded, but fired only for repeating the offense.

The union contract expired in June, but Bay City schools will operate under its provisions until the city agrees to a new one. Bay City officials have not said whether the new contract will retain these provisions.

The contract has received attention of late due to a ballot measure known as Proposal 2, which would enshrine collective bargaining agreements in law, overturning a state law that prohibits unions from collectively bargaining on disciplinary issues.

According to a summary posted on the state’s website, Prop 2 would “Invalidate existing or future state or local laws that limit the ability to … negotiate and enforce collective bargaining agreements” and “override state laws that regulate hours and conditions of employment to the extent that those laws conflict with collective bargaining agreements.”

In other words, any state law that conflicted with Bay City’s collective bargaining agreement would be invalidated by Prop 2, and those agreements would be the sole determinant of, among other measures, disciplinary measures for Bay City teachers.

The exclusion of public input from government union contract decisions is an ever-present problem, Heritage labor policy expert James Sherk has noted. “Increasingly—and contrary to basic democratic principles—it is union leaders, not elected officials, who essentially decide how much taxes people pay, and how the government will spend those taxes,” Sherk wrote in a 2011 report.

Prop 2 would insulate not just pay, but even basic disciplinary measures from input by elected leaders. The result could be a union contract that protects teachers who, say, sell drugs to students.