ABC applauds Senate subcommittee action on public university unionization academy

Associated Builders and Contractors of Michigan (ABC) praised the action by the Michigan Senate Appropriations Higher Education Subcommittee on March 27, 2014, adding to mounting pressure that Michigan State University (MSU) end a union organizing academy previously administered by the AFL-CIO National Labor College.  

The subcommittee passed language that would enact a $500,000 penalty on a public university that participates in instructional activity that encourages or discourages union organizing.  The action comes after ABCand other groups called for MSU to end its “Building Trades Academy.

“Today’s action by Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker (R-Lawton) and the Senate Subcommittee demonstrates bold leadership on an issue that is seriously disturbing – a public land-grant university engaging in union organizing activities,” says Chris Fisher , ABC of Michigan president. “No public universityshould be allowed to continue inappropriate use of public resources. The Senate Subcommittee deserves praise for its quick, decisive action and clear message that MSU’s program is not appropriate and needs to end.

The higher education budget, which was passed out of committee, states that a public university shall not participate “in any instructional activity that encourages or discourages union organizing of employees.

Subcommittee Chair Schuitmaker said that MSU “has taken over the duties of the national labor college,” and noted that the courses promote unionization and how to target non-union companies, even though non-unionized companies already have positive relationships with their employees.

In response, MSU described the purpose of the program as,“intended to train union personnel in how to become leaders, how to negotiate effectively, and how to attract owners to bring their work to signatory employers and achieve voluntary recognition from construction employers.” [emphasis added].

“The revision of the Building Trades Academy course description is equally as alarming as the original course description,” Fisher notes. “By stating that the program is designed to bring work to signatory employers MSU admits that the program is designed steer work to only to unionized contractors. The admission by MSU that the program seeks to achieve recognition from employers removes all doubt that the purpose of the academy is to unionize companies by getting them to recognize unions as the bargaining agent of their employees."

“No matter how you cut it, one thing is clear in both the original course descriptions and the revised MSU explanation regarding the program’s purpose – MSU has taken over administration of an AFL-CIO program that instructs union officials on methods of interfering with the operations of non-union companies to cause labor disruption in order to pressure them to unionize.”