Thousands of union workers converged on Lansing Tuesday to protest the passage of Right to Work legislation. They stood on a Capitol grounds well-populated with Michigan State Police troopers – troopers who, ironically, are not only unionized themselves, but insulated from the current debate due to a constitutional provision.
A spokesman for MSP declined Tuesday to say how many troopers were deployed to the Capitol Tuesday, though an estimate by a Bridge reporter on the scene put the figure well above 100. That’s a substantial commitment of statewide resources; the MSP reported 887 at-post troopers around the state, as of Sept. 1 of this year.
Regardless of how the Legislature ultimately acts on Right to Work, the state police union will not be touched by it.
Under section 5 of Article XI of the 1963 Michigan Constitution, “State Police Troopers and Sergeants shall, through their elected representative designated by 50% of such troopers and sergeants, have the right to bargain collectively with their employer concerning conditions of their employment, compensation, hours, working conditions, retirement, pensions, and other aspects of employment except promotions which will be determined by competitive examination and performance on the basis of merit, efficiency and fitness …”
At the time, troopers were concerned that their pay and benefits would fall behind the pay and benefits of unionized police officers in municipalities across the state, recalls longtime Lansing attorney Peter Ellsworth. State police campaigned for the protection, which eventually was enshrined in the constitution.
Unions in general attempted to gain the same constitutional protections, via Proposal 2 on the November ballot. That ballot initiative was voted down.
The Michigan State Police Troopers Association has a contract with the state that runs through Sept. 30, 2014, and details everything from staffing in patrol cars during overnight hours (two troopers per vehicle is the standard) to the blood-alcohol level of a trooper that triggers the disciplinary process (0.2 for a first event).