During 2011, House Bill 5023 was introduced by Representative Lisa Lyons. This bill was designed to fine the Michigan Education Association (MEA) union in event of a strike. The bill specified that the Michigan government could fine the MEA $5,000 per teacher for each full or partial day of a teacher strike. Additionally, teachers themselves were targeted, with the legislation stipulating that teachers could be charged a fine equal to one day for every day or partial day they participate in a strike as well as the possibility of having their teacher's license revoked if they were to break existing strike laws.
The bill came into existence when massive school reforms were occurring. At the time, Governor Snyder was attempting to reform the state budget. One of these reforms included cuts in student funding. Specifically, his budget stipulated $470 per pupil cut in funding, as well as raising the retirement rate from 20.66 to 24.5 cents (for every $1 spent on personnel, 24.5 cents was to be delegated to its pension fund). Estimates suggested that more than $700 per pupil was cut with Snyder's budget plan.
Paul Scott, a Republican House Representative from Grand Blanc, was chairman of the House Education Committee and was one of the backers of House Bill 5023. According to Scott, the bill would enforce current law and would protect teachers from political forces at the top of the MEA. Additionally, he thought the example being set by impressionable youth by their teachers was inappropriate. Another supporter, Bill Rodgers, a Republican Representative from Brighton, agreed that House Bill 5023 gave teeth to existing strike laws.
However, Scott was one of the largest figures to come under scrutiny for his support of House Bill 5023, perhaps because of a combination of his stance on several education related issues as well as serving as the chairman of the House Education Committee. For example, he also believed in things such as rules that mandate school teachers are laid off by seniority should be abolished as well as school employees should have to pay 20% of their health insurance premiums.
The MEA, which had been in talks of initiating crisis activities, were concerned about these issues. Ironically, at one point, the MEA had endorsed Scott. Three years after this endorsement and after the proposal of House Bill 5023, they led a campaign targeting politicians such as Scott. Some found this silly, claiming that it was pointless with reelections in the distant future and claiming Scott was not in a vulnerable position for a recall. Those words were eaten when Scott was the lone politician left for a recall concluding with the successful recall of Paul Scott.
This legislation is unlikely to pass. Despite seemingly strong support from the Republicans initially, the MEA was successful in bringing negative attention to the Republican party as well as successfully recalling one of their party members on the Education Board. At present, the bill seems unlikely to pass or, at the very least, in need of serious reworking. Although illegal in Michigan, many Americans find the ability to strike a right and legislation with these sort of extreme fines attached not only to the union but the teachers themselves will likely remain unpopular among unions and public opinion.
Thorne, B. (2011, March 22). Paul scott introduces bill to fine teachers union in event of strike. Flint Journal, Retrieved from http://www.mlive.com/news/flint/index.ssf/2011/03/paul_scott_introduces_bill_to.html
Howell, B. (2011, April 4). Bay city teachers union to vote this week on mea job action that could result in strike. MLive, Retrieved from http://www.mlive.com/news/bay-city/index.ssf/2011/04/bay_city_teachers_union_to_vot.html
Thorne, B. (2011, April 6). Paul scott positions himself into center of education debate. Flint Journal, Retrieved from http://www.mlive.com/news/flint/index.ssf/2011/04/paul_scott_positions_himself_i.html
Thorne, B. (2011, June 12). Michigan education association targets rep. paul scott in tv ad. Flint Journal, Retrieved from http://www.mlive.com/news/flint/index.ssf/2011/06/michigan_education_association_1.html
Thorne, B. (2011, November 9). Paul scott recalled: The rise and fall of michigan's republican wunderkind. Flint Journal, Retrieved from http://www.mlive.com/news/flint/index.ssf/2011/11/down_goes_paul_scott_the_rise.html