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Public employee union data bill passes Michigan Senate

The Michigan state Senate room from the gallery.
Lester Graham
Michigan Radio

Public employers in Michigan would have to share employee contact information with unions under a bill that passed the Michigan Senate Thursday.

That would include a worker’s full name, their home address if it’s not classified, and their personal email and phone number.

Senator John Cherry (D-Flint) said unions need that data to fully serve everyone in a workplace.

“Ultimately, when a union … does not know about and cannot contact an employee they’re supposed to represent, it’s the employee that is harmed,” Cherry said from the Senate floor.

Ahead of the vote, Republicans unsuccessfully offered several amendments to temper the bill and give employees the chance to opt out of having their data shared.

Senator Thomas Albert (R-Lowell) said the legislation leaves room for potential abuses.

“It moves beyond reasonably assisting legitimate communication between a union and the employees it represents into an unwarranted invasion of privacy into a potential misuse of information,” Albert said.

Responding to the criticism from the floor, Cherry justified the need to share home contact information with unions.

He said employees aren’t supposed to talk with their union representatives while on the clock.

“So, if they can’t use their work email or their work phone to talk to their union representative, then that does need to be done outside of work hours, which typically means it’s at home,” Cherry said.

He later emphasized with reporters that the state policy under Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s administration is already to share contact information with public unions. The bill would extend that to all public employees served by a union.

The bill offers no specific restrictions on how the information can be used, saying only that employees must be notified that their information is being shared.

Cherry acknowledged that leaves the door open for unions to use that collected data for political purposes.

Republican Minority Leader Aric Nesbitt (R-Porter Twp) called it a bad bill.

“Why mandate that every 90 days, they’ve got to update where somebody lives, what somebody’s cell phone number is? Especially with the challenges that are out there in this day and age,” Nesbitt told reporters. “There’s folks that went through bad divorces, there are folks that have had domestic violence. There’s a lot of issues that are out there.”

The bill passed the Senate by a party line vote. It now heads to the House of Representatives.