House Dems Vote Against Punitive Civil Service Bill in Committee

Proposal scapegoats low-level workers, doesn’t hold managers accountable
Thursday, June 2, 2016

LANSING — State Representatives Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids), Christine Greig (D-Farmington Hills) and Jim Townsend (D-Royal Oak) voted against House Bill 5677 and House Joint Resolution MM as they left the House Workforce and Talent Development Committee today. The bill removes workplace protections for civil servants and makes it easier to fire them for mistakes made by their superiors, setting them up to be political scapegoats.

“This legislation makes it easier to fire a low-level employee for a mistake made by their supervisor, but does nothing to hold political appointees accountable for their bad decisions,” Rep. Brinks said. “The state of Michigan relies on the expertise of its dedicated employees. This legislation puts them on notice that they can be replaced at any time with inexperienced and unqualified political appointments. We need safeguards in place to make sure our state employees are qualified, experienced and capable.”

Civil servants can already be fired for not doing their jobs well. Last year alone, more than 300 state workers were fired. However, Michigan’s longstanding civil service law ensures that workers receive due process before being fired in order to protect them against partisan attacks or to cover up mistakes made at a higher level. HB 5677 and HJR MM strip them of those protections.

“Republicans like to say that what happened at Flint was a failure of government at all levels,” Rep. Greig said. “But so far, they’ve done nothing to hold accountable the political appointees who set department policies and make decisions. Instead of drafting legislation that ensures governor-appointed emergency managers or department heads do their jobs and are held accountable, they’re turning powerless workers into easy victims, and that’s not acceptable.”

HB 5677 and HJR MM were reported out of the House Workforce and Talent Development Committee along party lines Wednesday. They now advance to consideration before the full House.

“This is nothing but a ruse, and nobody is fooled by it,” Townsend said. “House Republicans are attempting to deflect attention away from Gov. Snyder’s administration and his emergency managers by attacking low-level state employees while the children and families of Flint still don’t have safe drinking water. The residents of Flint need new water lines, not grandstanding.”