Michigan Compulsory Arbitration Act for Essential Services

When Public Act 312 became effective on October 1, 1969, Michigan joined Rhode Island and Pennsylvania in permitting compulsory arbitration of unresolved labor disputes involving municipal police and firemen. Wyoming similarly provides for compulsory arbitration in fire department disputes. Passage of the Act was prompted by a desire to avoid the dire consequences of strikes or work stoppages by firefighters and policemen, and to provide a method by which the bargaining power of public service unions could be maintained in the absence of the strike privilege. Since Michigan had barred strikes by public employees in 1947, the unions felt that they lacked a base of power from which to press their demands. The firemen and policemen realized that a strike, aside from its illegality, would, in all likelihood, alienate employer and legislators alike without advancing the cause for which they were striking. The unions representing these groups feared that the probable result would be more oppressive sanctions for strikes by policemen and firemen. As a result, compulsory arbitration was advanced as a compromise to compensate them for the loss of their right to strike. The recommendation for compulsory binding arbitration of disputes involving firemen and policemen originated in a committee appointed by former Governor George Romney to examine, among other things, means of “protecting the general public against interruptions or impairment of essential government services.” As a result of this study, compulsory arbitration was initiated on an experimental basis for a period commencing October 1, 1969, and expiring June 30, 1972.