LANSING — The Michigan House Democratic Caucus and Michigan Legislative Black Caucus sent letters to the Michigan Civil Service Commission last week that ask commissioners to reject proposed rule changes that would rob state employees of many of their workers’ rights. The Commission will meet Sept. 20 to vote on the changes, which include ending civil servants’ ability to negotiate items such as overtime pay, seniority and grievances.

“Michigan’s hardworking civil servants go to work every day to perform essential and often thankless tasks. Many, like our state troopers and corrections officers, do so under dangerous conditions, while others, like bridge inspectors and social workers, work hard to keep us safe in other ways,” House Democratic Leader Sam Singh (D-East Lansing) said. “If the proposed rules are adopted, civil servants may quit and take decades of skills and experience with them. The state will be left to replace them with less skilled, less qualified replacements, which will cost taxpayers both in terms of turnover and in terms of diminished quality of service. This is a bad move for Michigan.”

If the new rules are adopted, House Democrats warn that they will further erode morale among civil service workers at a time when it is already slipping. Legislative and administrative initiatives against civil servants, including attacks on their bargaining power, and rollbacks to workers’ compensation, have all taken a toll on morale, which eventually leads to higher turnover. Instead of addressing the problem, the Civil Service Commission is considering taking a step that will compound it.

“The suggested rule changes are a slap in the face to workers who dedicated a career to serving their neighbors and the state they call home,” said House Democratic Floor Leader Christine Greig (D-Farmington Hills). “Rather than thanking them for that service, the Civil Service Commission is considering removing their job security — and their family’s financial security in the process. The Commission is telling them that their hard work is not a career, but little more than a job that could be performed by anyone without any skill or experience. Not only is that not right, it’s also not true — which is why I’m asking the Commission to vote against these changes.”

If adopted, the rules would have a disproportionate impact on African-Americans, said state Rep. Sheldon Neeley (D-Flint), chairman of the Michigan Legislative Black Caucus.         

“At a time when we are seeing a rise in discriminatory acts against marginalized people, the Civil Service Commission is talking about taking away a state worker’s right to negotiate grievances,” Rep. Neeley said. “The grievance process is one of the strongest tools a union-represented worker has to resolve a problem in the workplace, including problems of bias and harassment. To take away that ability at a time like this is short-sighted at best and cynical at worst. We urge the Civil Service Commission to reject these rule changes.”