LANSING (AP) - The Republican-led Michigan Legislature narrowly approved a measure Wednesday that would prohibit public schools from automatically deducting union dues from the paychecks of teachers and other employees, a move that unions consider another attack on collective bargaining rights.
Some Republicans joined Democrats in opposing the measure, which was approved 20-18 in the Senate and 56-54 in the House. The bill goes to Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, who intends to sign it, spokesman Ken Silfven said.
The Legislature's action came one day after a union coalition said it had started collecting signatures for a proposed constitutional amendment aimed at protecting or strengthening collective bargaining rights. If the coalition collects enough valid voter signatures, the proposal could qualify for voters to decide in the November election.
The union-led coalition, called Protect Our Jobs, viewed Wednesday's vote as retaliation for their proposal, which could nullify some existing and future laws related to collective bargaining. Republicans said Wednesday's vote wasn't retaliation but rather an action that had been in the works for months.
The House passed the first version of the bill in September.
"The bill had existed long before they filed their petition language," said Amber McCann, a spokeswoman for Republican Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville. "It was something on the minds of caucus members for quite some time."
Supporters of the bill approved Wednesday say the measure would put more money in the paychecks of teachers, who could then choose to write checks to unions to cover dues.
"It really prioritizes that the focus of our school administration has to be on teaching the kids," said Rep. Joe Haveman, R-Holland, the bill's sponsor. "Let's get out of the business of collecting bills for other people."
Critics say the proposal is an attempt to weaken the membership and finances of teachers' unions, making it more difficult to collect dues from members.
Sen. Glenn Anderson, a Democrat from Westland, called the bill "yet another attack on the rights of working Michiganders."
The state's two main teachers' unions, the Michigan Education Association and the state's American Federation of Teachers branch, criticized the legislation.
"Why are Lansing politicians wasting time solving problems that don't exist instead of creating jobs, supporting public education for students and a better future for Michigan?" David Hecker, Michigan president of the AFT, said in a statement. "Keeping local school districts from deciding how union dues are collected is a waste of time and taxpayers' dollars."