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Petty Revenge: Michigan Republicans Slash Higher-Ed Spending in Retaliation for Union Contracts

15 percent cuts to Wayne State and University of Michigan will hurt students and faculty alike.
 
 
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The law school at University of Michigan.
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If Michigan Republicans are campaigning to be named worst Republicans in a state that voted for Barack Obama twice and has two Democratic senators, they can probably relax.  Because wow. A Toledo Blade editorial explains that both Wayne State University and the University of Michigan adopted eight-year contracts with their faculty and staff before the lame-duck-passed anti-union freeloader law could go into effect. Because the contracts were passed before the law went into effect, it won't affect faculty and staff at the universities until the contracts expire. That means that, while no one will have to join the union, people who don't join will have to pay a fee covering the costs of their representation.

But majority Republicans on the state House’s higher education subcommittee were furious at what they perceived as an attempt to get around the new right-to-work law.

So they voted to slash both schools’ state aid by 15 percent. That could mean a cut of $47 million for U of M and $27.5 million for Wayne State. One GOP lawmaker boasted that “we‘ve sent a serious message here,” and accused the universities of trying to violate state law.

It’s not clear how either school could have broken a law that is not yet in effect. And Wayne State president Allan Gilmour, a tough negotiator who was Ford Motor Co.’s longtime chief financial officer, told lawmakers that the long contract actually saves taxpayers money.

The "serious message" Michigan Republicans are sending here, of course, is "we're unrepentant assholes." And if passed into law, this particular piece of unrepentant assholery will hit not just faculty and staff at the two universities but students as well, since you don't cut university funding by 15 percent without leading to increased tuition, cuts that affect the quality of education offered, or—most likely—both.

Laura Clawson is the Labor editor at Daily Kos Labor, and a contributing editor at Daily Kos.