(Reuters) - A proposal to enshrine the right to collective bargaining in the Michigan state constitution will not be on the ballot in November after a state board deadlocked on the plan backed by labor unions in a leading auto manufacturing state.
The Michigan Board of State Canvassers voted 2-2 on Wednesday along party lines on the proposal. A tie vote leaves any measure off the ballot.
Supporters of the proposal immediately filed a motion asking the Michigan Supreme Court to decide whether to allow the proposal on the ballot.
Two Democrats on the board voted to place the proposal on the November ballot, while two Republicans disagreed, with the result that the proposal was not approved to go on the ballot.
Supporters need a decision from the court soon as the state’s director of elections has requested that the ballot for the November 6 general election be finalized by August 27, according to Dan Lijana, spokesman for the petition organizers.
Critics have argued that the Michigan measure would discourage businesses from bringing new jobs to the state and encourage some to leave. Supporters say it would protect working families.
A coalition of unions submitted petitions with nearly 700,000 signatures, twice the number needed, to get the measure on the ballot. The coalition includes the AFL-CIO labor federation, the United Auto Workers, and the Michigan Education Association.
Auto workers are a significant but declining force in Michigan politics after major auto companies declined early in the last decade and then recovered in recent years.
Only a handful of states, including Florida and Missouri, protect union activity such as collective bargaining in the state constitution, while 23 states have “right to work” laws that bar employers from requiring workers to pay fees for union representation.
Michigan’s attorney general, Bill Schuette, a Republican, said in a legal analysis that the measure was too complicated for the ballot.
Supporters countered that Schuette’s opinion was “politically motivated and faulty,” according to a statement from the Protect our Jobs campaign.
A Michigan conservative economic policy think-tank, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, had opposed the measure.
“It would fundamentally change the power structure in Michigan,” said F. Vincent Vernuccio, director of labor policy for Mackinac. “It would give government unions the ability to veto laws enacted by the people’s representatives that would limit collective bargaining.”
Reporting by Mary Wisniewski; Editing by M.D. Golan