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Posted on Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 7:50 a.m.

Union contract talks begin after Washtenaw County formally condemns right to work

By Amy Biolchini

With no discussion Wednesday night, the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution instructing administrators to promptly begin union contract negotiations ahead of schedule in an effort to avoid the immediate effects of a new right-to-work law in Michigan.

In a 6-2 vote, the board approved the resolution that also formally condemned the law that was passed in December by the lame-duck Michigan Legislature.


Verna McDaniel

Ryan J. Stanton | file photo

"This puts us under a very compressed time constraint," said County Administrator Verna McDaniel after the full meeting of the board Wednesday night. "We're working furiously. We're meeting with the unions; we're providing a lot of data; we're going into executive session so that the board is updated and will understand the magnitude of what we need to do."

Commissioners Andy LaBarre, D-Ann Arbor; Conan Smith, D-Ann Arbor; Yousef Rabhi, D-Ann Arbor; Ronnie Peterson, D-Ypsilanti; Rolland Sizemore Jr., D-Ypsilanti Township; and Kent Martinez-Kratz, D-Chelsea voted for the measure, while commissioners Dan Smith, R-Northfield Township and Alicia Ping, R-Saline, voted against it.

Commissioner Felicia Brabec, D-Pittsfield Township, was absent because she was on vacation.

Thirteen of the union contracts the county has with its employees will expire in December. In order to delay the effects of right-to-work legislation, county staff will expedite talks with unions in order to get new contracts approved by March 27 when the new law takes effect.

In order to do so, Administrator McDaniel said her office will have to begin immediately in order to get new contracts before the Board of Commissioners by March 20 for approval.

The commissioners entered into a hour-long closed-door session at the end of their Wednesday meeting to discuss union negotiation strategies. McDaniel said she would present the commissioners with several different approaches.

The county is also preparing to undergo budget negotiations, as it works to eliminate a $3.9 million structural budget deficit for 2014.

It's smaller than the previous budget deficit the county faced, but even harder to deal with, McDaniel said. "We've already done the cutting down to the bone in our budget," she said.

Working with the unions that represent about 85 percent of county employees would have been a part of the budget process anyway later in the year, McDaniel said, but the new direction from the commissioners means both will happen at the same time.

The right-to-work law removes the security clause in union contracts that requires employees to pay union dues as a condition of employment. It will take effect when union contracts expire — and so the county will now be working diligently to extend those contracts as long as possible.

McDaniel and her staff will be seeking four-year contracts with the unions that have expressed interest in the process, she said. The county will also be seeking letters of intent with the unions that will last for about 10 years.

In the last meeting of the board, Commissioner Dan Smith was the sole opposing voice to the resolution regarding the union contracts, which was introduced by Commissioner LaBarre. It's the first resolution LaBarre has presented and passed in his first term on the board.

Dan Smith had asked the board's corporation counsel Curtis Hedger a number of questions regarding the possible legality of the county taking such an action to extend its union contracts, but the questions were not answered at the meeting. McDaniel said Wednesday there had been no further direction by commissioners for Hedger to answer those questions.

The commissioners will next talk through the possibility of developing a four-year budget at 6 p.m. Thursday at its working session. a move McDaniel has said developing a four-year budget could eliminate the possibility of a large structural deficit in the future. The county is on a two-year budget cycle.

Amy Biolchini covers Washtenaw County, health and environmental issues for Reach her at (734) 623-2552, or on Twitter.



Sat, Feb 23, 2013 : 12:02 a.m.

Exactly why I dropped the ann arbor news after 50 years. They just cannot quit trying to shove their agenda down our throats. Pushing Obama and the democratic party. Everyone should have their vote, and the ability to belong to the union or not, Knowing that their dues are going to the utter coruption in Washington.


Sat, Feb 23, 2013 : 2:24 p.m.

You have this choice, without Right to work for less. You have always been able to pay agency fees that cover only the cost of representation. You also have the option of being active in your union to shape it's political agenda and determine how it uses it's resources. Be part of the solution. Be active.


Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 8:08 p.m.

Am I blind or did bury this story I did not see it as a Head Line yesterday morning!


Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 4:59 p.m.

Amy, I Hope and Pray will keep the Washtenaw County Tax payers up-dated on the out come of all 13 county union contracts. I would like to see the before and after contracts being they are all being opened early.

Amy Biolchini

Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 9:39 p.m.

Judy, it was not in the "Top Story" section of our website but it was a headline in the "Today in Ann Arbor" section for most of the day. it's been pushed off of the home page as more stories have been published.


Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 6:18 p.m.

Well, as much as I recognize that commissioners are acting to use the deficit and March 27 RtW (for less) deadline to force unions to take concessions, I commend them for stating their opposition to the Right to Work (for less). It's a union-busting law that hurts the working class. I also fault the article for not getting reactions from the unions or even telling what unions are involved or what those workers do. Labor usually has no face, no voice and no personality in the press, and this article continues that tradition. They are simply, institutionally, generically "the union." What we're told is that the BOC is trying to help the unions, and that the BOC needs them to give up money to help with the budget problem, and that they better do it fast or they'll lose union security. The article implies that the BOC initiated this and is trying to get unions to bite, not that unions came to the BOC to open contracts early. But the BOC could negotiate with unions apart from the regular contracts to maintain union security, I think. You don't necessarily need to open the contracts to put a Letter of Understanding in place! The BOC is using this to goad unions along.


Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 6:30 p.m.

Unions with contracts with the WCBC are (AFSCME, the IBT and MNA have multiple units/contracts): The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Local 2733 (AFSCME) The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Local 3052 (AFSCME) The Command Officers Association of Michigan (COAM) The Police Officers Association of Michigan (POAM) The Assistant Prosecutors Association (APA) The Michigan Nurses Association, Unit 1 (MNA) Teamsters Local 214 (IBT) Public Defenders Association (PDA) They do everything, including windows and dressing wounds.


Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 5:36 p.m.

The title of this article perpetuates the republicon fraud. It is most certainly not a right to work law, it is a right to destroy the union and work for less law.


Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 5:56 p.m.

Here here! Thank you. No one has the right to work if resources and jobs are considered the private property of one group.


Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 4:52 p.m.

What concessions will the county be getting from the unions for re-negotiating these contracts early? I'm ok with this if the county actually gets something of value from the unions in exchange.


Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 5:58 p.m.

The value the county gets is the labor the workers perform. They get that everyday. I hope workers can avoid concessions and maintain, or move towards a "living wage" package of benefits and pay.


Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 4:20 p.m.

Dan Smith and Alicia Ping are the only voices of reason on the council.


Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 3:43 p.m.

So now we know who the County Commissioners actually work for.


Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 2:17 p.m.

It is outrageous that the commissioners are attempting to circumvent the law and that they are not putting the taxpayer before the employees.


Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 12:19 p.m.

Life is all about choices and we should have the right to chose what we wish to do or which groups we wish to join.


Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 8:20 a.m.

Typical Democrats at work. You got what you all voted for!!


Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 3:56 a.m.

For those of you saying the WCBC is bending over backwards to help the unions, or worse, working for them or whatever, consider this: they are using the legal deadline to rush collective bargaining and potentially wring some serious concessions in the name of the budget deficit. They could negotiate a separate agreement solely to deal with circumventing the so-called Right-to-Work laws. Look at the AATA/Transit Workers Union Local 171 agreement: a letter of understanding that is independent of the contract. So, what is the rationale for opening contracts early? And to all the anitunion commentators.... hope you enjoy your weekends. We are the reason you have them to enjoy. Dues are far less out of pocket than the grossly reduced wages and benefits we'd all have to deal with if we didn't have collective bargaining and contracts. Now, I agree that our union should not be helping Democrats (and much less Republicans) with our dues money; and should not be feathering their nests with exorbitant salaries (which they do). But to stop this abuse workers need to fight for democracy in, and control of, our unions. We need MORE power on the job, not less.


Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 8:32 p.m.

L'chaim,"You seem to want commissioners to lower worker's living standards in the name of the taxpayers". Are you out of your mind? As a Washtenaw County taxpayer, I want the commmisionors to work for the "whole county not just Washtenaw County workers that many or may not live in the county.


Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 8:02 p.m.

L'Chaim (like limited federal assistance) The last time I checked Federal assistance still came from my taxes!


Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 4:06 p.m.

@ jcj: I don't think it's fine for county commissioners to use Right to Work ("the legal deadline") and the deficit to smash wages and benefits, which is what they will do. They will lower standards in working conditions. Of course I'll complain when the rich exploit me and the tax system. These are two very different things, that you are conflating. Just because you're in a union does not mean you're pro worker. You seem to want commissioners to lower worker's living standards in the name of the taxpayers. This is an antiunion argument that pits budgets against people, instead of questioning budget sourcing and priorities (like limited federal assistance and corporate welfare, etc.). I am against commissioners, and all elected officials not looking out for the working class, and serving bosses. Get with the program, my union brother (or sister).


Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 1:15 p.m.

BTW I am not anti union.I have been a member of a union for 45 years. I am against commissioners not looking out for the tax payer 1st.


Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 1:14 p.m.

L'chaim "they are using the legal deadline" That's fine but don't complain when the rich in this country use "legal" loopholes in the tax laws!

Dog Guy

Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 12:34 a.m.

Considering that both the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners and the unions are on the same side, I suggest bargaining across a Mobius table.


Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 12:22 a.m.

The unions and union supporters are complaining about the "lame duck" way that the right to work law was passed. How horrible it was that the legislature didn't get enough input and represent everyone. How do you think these "letters of intent" work? The workers that are represented by the unions don't vote on "letters of intent"! The union bosses and the County can sign these agreements without the members even knowing. If you think I am making this up, ask an AATA employee if they got to vote on whether or not their own union signed one of these agreements for 10 years. The actual workers were given a right by the state to chose to pay dues and the people who claim to represent them are going to sign secret deals to take that right away without even asking them. Irony?


Sat, Feb 23, 2013 : 3:46 a.m.

Whether or not a union president could do an "executive decree" like you're suggesting I think would depend on their union's constitution. In the case of the larger bargaining unions with Washtenaw County, this isn't the case, as per this 2/14/11 Ann Arbor Chronicle article: "AFSCME Local 2733 represents about half of the county's employees – 644 people. The Local 2733 agreement was ratified by a 2-to-1 vote earlier this week, but only 325 members voted. Caryette Fenner, president of Local 2733, described it as a typical turnout."


Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 3:50 a.m.

"ask an AATA employee if they got to vote on whether or not their own union signed one of these agreements for 10 years." OKAY. I asked. They voted. It passed overwhelmingly with only a single (1) in opposition and a multitude (100+) in favor (Sunday, January 6th 2013 at a union meeting at WCC). It's a "Letter of Understanding," BTW.

dadog woof

Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 12:21 a.m.

Lets see ,AnnArbor is so privledged that only the plebians in Ypsilanti could need a union. And since the patrician society that ann arborites so proudly claim never have to work for a living and can only take shots at less affluent (ha ha) citizens to thier east. maybe the money earned by these stuffy wind bags who would deny a living wage to people who probobaly spend money on goods and services that Ann Arborites provide. to quote a poet of our age "people hate mostly on people they can't be. Unions are the reason that the middle class in our nation hsa prospered, and if we don't get our heads out of the sand and see what the Koch brothers and Sneider have in store for us , Woe be to the working man.


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 11:40 p.m.

There have got to be a few Democrats that find this stinks to high Heaven!

Dog Guy

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 10:26 p.m.

Will this process yield a 50-year contract?


Mon, Feb 25, 2013 : 4:35 p.m.

So Brokentwinhalos, what you are saying is opening the contracts early by the WCB really is just to by pass the State's Right-to-Work Law. As for wage and/or step level freezes for employees as a Washtenaw County Tax payer I will be watching to see if this happens, my guess is the union will ask for increases to make up for the last 2 years worth of cuts.


Sat, Feb 23, 2013 : 2:53 a.m.

Dog Guy, you're obviously speaking in super hyperbole, right? A 50 year contract would unduly tie the hands of all parties - with unseen consequences for County's government, employees and residents. Who knows what the economic landscape will look like in 10 years from now, much less 50? Dot com and housing bubbles, anyone? To Judy, with the past being prologue, a 5-6% increase seems fairly improbable - County administration is asking for cuts that may be as difficult (if not more so) than the negotiations that ended in the last two years (we're talking 13 bargaining units, engaging in similar but sometimes separate negotiations with the County). If you do a search for "AFSCME Deal Sets Stage for County Budget" or "Washtenaw County sheriff's deputies agree to concessions in new four-year contract", you'll find Ann Arbor Chronicle and Ann articles speaking to wage and/or step level freezes for employees.


Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 8:21 p.m.

Good one Dog Guy! At 5% or 6% or .....increase per year?

Basic Bob

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 9:17 p.m.

If I were Ms. McDaniel, I would start about 10% low. We know that the union bosses can't afford a long negotiation or a no-vote from the membership.


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 8:06 p.m.

Seems we have the best government money can buy. Unions have definately been in the drivers seat and are doing everything they can to stay there. To bad our politicians care more about the unions that the public.


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 7:59 p.m.

Who are the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners supposed to be looking out for, the union drones, or the taxpayers of the County. Appears that the Democrat commissioners have their priorities one hundred eighty degrees out of phase.


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 7:45 p.m.

"The right-to-work law removes the security clause in union contracts that requires employees to pay union dues as a condition of employment. It will take effect when union contracts expire — and so the county will now be working diligently to extend those contracts as long as possible." No question who runs the government of this County. Same with the Road Commission. It's our money you are using politically. We want representation not union politics.


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 6:54 p.m.

This is using the position of your office to make a party platform statement. While it can be argued that there is some rational county incentive to negotiate a contract, the resolution makes it clear that this is wholly and solely party posturing to garner and retain union support come the next election. Instead of acting as impartial employer, the Board of Commissioners chose to promote a platform position to frustrate a duly enacted law without consideration of the benefits and needs of the citizenry as a whole. The comment was made in another article that the RTW legislation was somehow illicit because it was passed by a "lame-duck" legislature. Lame duck or no, it is still a legislature and it made a valid law. In response, the County chose to create an issue and flaunt the law by looking for a loophole. That too is "legal" albeit questionable given that you are supposed to be "management". Ok, you chose your sides. Come next election, I will have a printed list of everyone who voted in favor of this resolution. I will oppose them in that election and in any other election they ever run in again where I have a vote. I urge others in the county who oppose this type of gambit to do the same.


Tue, Mar 5, 2013 : 5:01 p.m.

No met to others


Sat, Feb 23, 2013 : 2:32 a.m.

I hear what you're saying that the outgoing 2012 state legislature had the constitutionally authority to pass RTW. By that same measure, as the Washtenaw BOC isn't bound by the currently inactive RTW, I would argue that the BOC is within it's current authority to authorize WC administration to negotiate with the unions. Stating that the lame duck legislature created a valid law while the WC BOC is exploiting a loophole to flaunt an inactive law seems inconsistent.


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 11:38 p.m.

Dennis P Come next election start a campaign and I will donate to it!


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 5:48 p.m.

Unions 1, workers 0, taxpayers 0, stealing in broad day light. At least Kwayme and Ficano tried to make it look like business deals. Washtenaw county has hit a new low Unbelievable


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 5:33 p.m.

Said it before, I'll say it again: The BOC faces union pressure and a unionized workforce EVERY DAY they report to work. The BOC only faces the electorate once every two YEARS. Unions win.

Macabre Sunset

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 4:53 p.m.

How is this legal? Isn't there some minimal requirement on the part of elected officials to serve the public interest? I know you get this sort of "representation" in areas where there's no competition between the political parties. So corporations and unions can purchase representatives through the primary process. But this is going too far. I think the Attorney General's office should investigate.


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 6:01 p.m.

He's too busy trying to jail marijuana users.

you can't handle the truth

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 4:07 p.m.

Please hurry and get this done so that I can keep having my hard earned money stolen from me in the form of mandatory union dues and filtered directly to Democrats' political campaigns.


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 3:41 p.m.

We all have expectations from those that serve us. You expect a waitress to bring you the food you ordered not what they like. You expect your hairdresser to do your hair like you want it not how they think it should be. You expect a painter to paint your house the color you want not what they like. You expect your lawyer to look out for your interest not help the other side. And MOST people expect their elected representatives to look out for the taxpayers interest!


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 3:28 p.m.

The democratic party has bankrupt Detroit now the county commissioners are working on us!


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 9:08 p.m.

Ignatz Don't get me wrong I KNOW there are plenty of thieves and self serving people in both parties.


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 5:20 p.m.

jcj, I do agree that Democrats played a major role in ruining Detroit, but it was more involved than just a Democratic administration. The Democrats of which I primarily speak were those in the Coleman Young cable. He and his fellow crooks alienated businesses and caused them to move north of 8 Mile. At the same time, he and his cronies raided the treasury and let the neighborhood deteriorate as anyone with the means to do so, also fled. This was poor time, since it coincided with the demise of the American auto industry. That was the only pony the city had to ride on and it went lame. With nothing left in the stable, the coffers dried up. The majority of those who voted in Detroit are also at fault for electing one bunch of crooks after another. When they reelected Mayor Bling, I gave up hope. The citizens got what they wanted; a bunch of flashy crooks who would tell the citizens that everyone else in the State wanted the wealth of the city. Don't worry, there are plenty of thieves in the Republican Party. They're just clever enough to cover their disdain for municipal treasuries by passing laws to reduce taxes for their country club buds.


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 3:53 p.m.

It is easy to vote up or down. BUT it is another matter to put together a rebuttal of what I say!

Ricardo Queso

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 3:09 p.m.

Is this legal?


Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 8:13 p.m.

Time will tell but either way the County Lawyer will be happy with the money he makes fighting it.


Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 3:53 p.m.

Well, it's getting to the point that collective bargaining won't be legal... but, yes, it's still legal.


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 6:07 p.m.

We will see. I have a friend who is a WC employee and a group of them has already contracted a lawyer. My friend thinks if this goes though he'll be retiring with no worries for the rest of his life.

Unusual Suspect

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 3:37 p.m.

I have been wondering the exact same thing. I think we need to ask the Michigan Attorney General.


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 3:03 p.m.

So for everyone that thinks this is so great just look 30 miles to the east and see what this type of Democratic goverment has brought to Detroit and Wayne county. Tom Todd I am not jealous of my neighbors. I want everyone around me to make lots of money it only helps me. The probelm is these are public employes paid with taxes not on what they produce. Roosevelt himself said public employees should not be allowed to join a union that was when a Democrat actually got what goverment was supposed to do not just cater to special interests which is all both parties do now.


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 2:23 p.m.

This is an outrage! The union bosses of the WCBC are expediting union contracts so the tax payer has to pay more and the union members continue to have no choice in the operation of thier union. My wife is compelled to join a union and all she gets is over $600 deducted from her earnings every year. She never gets any help from the union for real issues in the work place. All the union does is over pay its leaders and give every else to the Democratic party. They don't care about their members!


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 10:32 p.m.

Tom, I guess all those newbies at the Big three are right up their on the pay scale, lets see from $27+ an hour to $14 per hour, also all those City people in Detroit, how many cuts have they had, all union.


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 3 p.m.

The union doesn't care about its members? Really? Just wait until the union is busted and the workers no longer have any ability to bargain collectively. Wait until your wife's wages are cut, or worse still, until she's fired and given the chance to re-apply for her job at lower wages with few or no benefits. You'll then suddenly realize how much your wife was really getting from the union, even if you don't realize it now.

Tom Todd

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 2:29 p.m.

SHE would make A LOT LESS if were not for the UNION.

Unusual Suspect

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 2:05 p.m.

There is supposed to be a negotiation between two sides, one representatives the interests of the citizens and the other representation the interests of the union. What we have here is the former has abdicated their responsibilities to represent the citizens, and now both parties are representing the interests of the union. The citizens are left with no representation. This is a serious ethical problem. The root cause of this is the proliferation of the letter, "D" in the fourth paragraph.


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 2:03 p.m.

I guess we all know now that the commissioners are really working for the unions, too bad they couldn't take action like this with public issues as when it comes to handling problems in the County. Looks like Andy is showing his true colors, I can see Dingell is smiling from ear to ear.


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 1:59 p.m.

Commissioners Andy LaBarre, D-Ann Arbor; Conan Smith, D-Ann Arbor; Yousef Rabhi, D-Ann Arbor; Ronnie Peterson, D-Ypsilanti; Rolland Sizemore Jr., D-Ypsilanti Township; and Kent Martinez-Kratz, D-Chelsea voted for the measure. Seems like the above are more concerned about making a political statement then negotiate an agreement that is in the tax payers' best interest. I guess objectivity is thrown out the window with this group.


Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 3:52 p.m.

Not at all. They are planing to force a host of concessions on workers with the urgent timeline. They are taking advantage of Right to Work. Interestingly, their hearts are in the right place in some ways, but they are acting as managers and bosses, through and through.

Unusual Suspect

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 1:58 p.m.

Would one of the journalists please find out what other work will be delayed/tabled while this work is done?


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 1:54 p.m.

The tone of her comments are very concerning. If this is used as leverage to gain economic benefits for taxpayers in these negotiations, then this is a very positive thing. Market driven benefits, work rule changes for efficiency...those things would be great. If this is as it sounds, an effort to quickly give the union a benefit while they still can, they should all resign. There is a structural deficit. It can only be resolved by prudent management. Rushing to get this done sounds anything but prudent. I will withhold judgment until we see what they actually negoatiate, but the tone of the comments are concerning.


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 1:37 p.m.

"This puts us under a very compressed time constraint," said County Administrator Verna McDaniel You put yourselves under this constraint. While this will be a good thing for county employees, these board members were elected to represent the county tax payers not the union. Seems more than a little like a conflict of interest.


Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 2:06 a.m.

I would hope the ACLU would weigh in on this- but I'm not holding my breath


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 3:23 p.m.

Tom I have no problem in the union fighting for what they can get. I do have a problem when both sides are on the same side of the tax payer funded contract.

Tom Todd

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 2:32 p.m.

Slavery used to be legal, but it did not make it RIGHT. please don't be jealous of neighbor.

Unusual Suspect

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 2:06 p.m.

Much more that a little conflict of interest.