Michigan voters rejected a constitutional amendment that supporters said would strengthen collective-bargaining rights, and opponents argued would drive business away by giving unions too much power.
The loss for Proposal 2 was projected by the Detroit Free Press and WXYZ-TV.
The amendment would have blocked so-called right-to-work laws in which union membership cannot be a condition of employment. Opponents, led by business groups, said the measure would have increased taxpayer costs by overriding dozens of laws, such as a 2011 statute requiring public employees to pay 20 percent of health-insurance premiums.
The vote was a “staggering defeat” for union leaders, said Jared Rodriguez, a spokesman for Protecting Michigan Taxpayers, the business-led coalition opposing Proposal 2. “Voters and union members sent a crystal-clear message to the union bosses today that union business has no place in Michigan’s constitution,” Rodriguez said in an e-mailed statement.
The ballot issue was the result of a petition drive by a union-led coalition after Wisconsin in 2011 stripped some collective-bargaining rights from public employees and Indiana’s passage this year of a right-to-work law. The Wisconsin move led to an unsuccessful recall drive against Republican Governor Scott Walker.
Proposal 2 supporters said the state went too far with laws that made it easier for schools to fire teachers, ban union-dues collections by government entities and allow state-appointed emergency managers to cancel union contracts in financially distressed cities and school districts.
The proposal was beaten by corporate opponents that spent $32 million “lying to voters to confuse them,” according to a statement by Protect Working Families, the group behind the ballot issue. “Working people will continue the fight to ensure a voice for fair wages, benefits and safe working conditions that benefit us all.”
Supporters expressed concern that Republican Governor Rick Snyder would approve a right-to-work law if passed by the Republican-controlled legislature.