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Unions race to beat right-to-work law

March 23, 2013

An extensive story discusses the effort of public employee unions to secure long-term contracts with higher education institutions, school districts and local units of government before the state's right-to-work law takes effect on March 28. Wayne State University ratified an eight-year contract Wednesday even as the legislature threatened to respond by pushing its state aid down to a level last seen in 1987. Moving forward with the contract was a difficult decision, President Allan Gilmour said, but the right decision because of the contract's value to the university and uncertainty about whether the threatened reductions will actually become law. Gilmour said the contract includes high-priority changes involving a new performance evaluation system and merit pay that the university has been trying to get the union to agree to for years. "Oddly enough, the right-to-work legislation helped on this because the union had something that they wanted us to give on," he said, referring to the eight-year length of the contract. The contract includes annual 1.25 percent raises with up to an additional 1.25 percent for high-performers. But if the university's funding is lower than expected in the second half of the contract, the university has three opportunities to lower the raises unilaterally. The union also agreed to higher health insurance co-pays and deductibles.