FOIA request reveals MSU agreement to administer union organizing program and payouts to AFL-CIO

Following a Freedom of Information Act request, Associated Builders and Contractors of Michigan has learned that Michigan State University recently entered into a "Memorandum of Understanding" with AFL-CIO’s Building and Construction Trades division regarding operation of a national union organizing academy.

The agreement, which comes on the heels of state Senate action to end the university’s role in union organizing, requires the university’s School of Human Resources and Labor Relations to provide payouts to the union for each qualifying class. Many of the classes continue to promote unionization of non-union companies, according to ABC of Michigan.

“The memorandum seems to be an attempt to reassure critics that the academy’s purpose is purely educational rather than a training program for union activists,” says Chris Fisher, president of ABC of Michigan. “Despite claiming that they will not target companies for unionization, the revised course descriptions and other details, however, clearly confirm the actual purpose, as well as outline how MSU will not only pay the cost of the program, but also will provide payouts to the union for its part in enrolling participants.No public university should be allowed to use public resources for programs that target private businesses for unionizing.”

Specific course descriptions outline the objectionable curriculum content: “This course offers a comprehensive overview of organizing issues related to the construction industry, offering constructive ways to organize the industry…” Another course focuses on preparing “…building trades organizers to conduct effective in-person meetings with non-union contractors both inside and outside of the context of organizing.” 

“MSU has taken over operation of an AFL-CIO program that instructs union officials on methods of interfering with non-union companies in order to cause labor disruption and pressure to unionize,” Fisher explains. “Membership building efforts by the union are understandable, given the steep decline in union members of recent years, but a taxpayer funded university should not be a part of it. MSU’s involvement with the union academy needs to end.”

ABC supports language developed by the Higher Education Subcommittee of the Michigan Senate’s Appropriations Committee which says public universities will be penalized if they get involved in union organizing. The language includes a provision to penalize any public university $500,000 per occurrence for participating in instructional activity that either encourages or discourages union organizing.

The union organizing academy was previously administered by the AFL-CIO National Labor College but is now part of the university’s School of Human Resources and Labor Relations. Participation is only open to union officials, not MSU students.

Final legislative action on the Higher Education budget is hoped for before the Legislature takes its summer recess.