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Police officers, firefighters push for exemption from bargaining law

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

Police and firefighter unions are pushing to be exempt from a state law that puts limits on municipal union contracts.  

A state Senate committee takes up the bill Wednesday. 

It used to be that when municipal unions bargained a new contract that included a pay increase, those raises would be retroactive to when the last contract expired. 

That changed a couple of years ago, when a new law was signed that eliminated that retroactive pay. 

Now police and firefighter unions are pushing legislation to exempt public safety contracts from the law.

Samantha Harkins is with the Michigan Municipal League.  She says the law has helped do away with lengthy and eventually costly contract talks.

“We were having contract (talks) for a year, 18 months, without resolution, and this ended that,” says Harkins. Local government leaders also worry that, if the police and firefighter unions get an exemption, other municipal unions will push for the same.

Police and firefighter union officials say they just want the negotiating rights they had before.

“We’re asking for nothing,” says Ken Grabowski, the legislative director for the Police Officers Association of Michigan. “Nothing that wasn’t already agreed to between the employer and union. There are no benefit increases. There are no wage increases. There are no increases if these bills pass. The employees just get what was already agreed to.”

In addition to the bill before the Senate’s Reforms, Restructuring and Reinventing Committee, there is also a similar bill in the State House.  

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Radio since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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