By Kyle Davidson, Michigan Advance
Members of the Senate Labor Committee on Wednesday moved to advance bills repealing preemptions on local government control of labor and workforce policies.
The bills would repeal a ban on local project labor agreements and a law preempting local government’s ability to set labor standards including higher-than-state-minimum wage and other benefits — nicknamed the “Death Star” bill in reference to “Star Wars.”
Unions and local government officials in support of the bill argued this repeal would allow community leaders to make the decisions that work best for their community and improve labor conditions.
However, the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) Michigan opposed both bills, arguing that a repeal of the project labor agreements ban would hurt small companies and shut out local businesses. In written testimony submitted to the committee, it argued repealing the preemption on local governments would create a patchwork of wage and benefit regulations and would restrict the flexibility of remote work as employers work to comply with state and local laws.
A number of other business organizations, including the Michigan Retailers Association, the Small Business Association of Michigan (SBAM), the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, the Michigan Manufacturers Association (MMA), the Michigan Health and Hospital Association and the Michigan Infrastructure and Transport Association (MITA), also submitted written testimony against Senate Bill 171, and an identical bill introduced in the House, House Bill 4237, sponsored by Rep. Joey Andrews (D-St. Joseph).
In the testimony, the organizations noted their opposition was not about whether workers should receive fair wages, paid or unpaid leave, or other benefits, but who should make the decisions.
They argued that giving local governments control over employment-related rules and regulations would be a “bureaucratic, red-tape nightmare for business owners and employees.” The groups also argued allowing local governments to set their own labor standards could create “high-cost islands” limiting community access to jobs and necessities and reducing investment into these communities.
Labor Committee Chair John Cherry (D-Flint), who co-sponsored both bills in the Senate, said these changes are intended to protect workers.
“When you talk about the ‘Death Star’ legislation from, you know, nearly a decade ago, we saw Texas passed that same legislation this year. Right, and what’s happened? Construction workers die. You know, they’re not getting water breaks,” Cherry said.
Local governments need the ability to provide worker protections, Cherry said.
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