These are important issues in their own right, and they haven’t been neglected. But one point that has gone missing in the coverage is the tension between Prop. 1 and Prop. 2—one that enshrines union bargaining rights, another that could lead to the voiding of union contracts in some cities and school districts. Or, as the Michigan-based blogger Marcy Wheeler (who goes by the handle @emptywheel) put it on Twitter, “you could have Prop 2 pass, and Prop 1, meaning ability to join unions whose contracts get broken by EMs.” Is this a valid interpretation of how the proposals will function, if both are passed? Will there be a political or legal battle to negotiate which proposal trumps the other? Will it require a modification of one or both of the proposals, after they’ve been supported in their current form by the public?
It’s not clear, and that’s the problem. The ballot language itself doesn’t make the matter plain. Prop. 1 says that emergency managers will be required to “develop financial and operating plans, which may include modification or termination of contracts, (and) reorganization of government ” while Prop. 2 grants “public and private employees the constitutional right to organize and bargain collectively through labor unions.” Prop. 2 does seem to anticipate a conflict with Prop. 1 or similar mandates by invalidating “existing or future state or local laws that limit the ability to join unions and bargain collectively, and to negotiate and enforce collective bargaining agreements ” But will that proviso apply in the “emergency” situations outlined by Prop. 1?
The proponents of Prop. 1 tend to oppose Prop. 2, and vice versa, so the ballot campaigns aren’t discussing the conflict; they’re just urging voters to reject one proposal and accept the other. It’s up to reporters, then, to fill the void. Despite the solid overall coverage, that hasn’t happened. That means that Michigan voters have less information than they might when considering these questions—and that tomorrow, if both proposals pass, the state’s citizens will be left to simply watch what happens next.