Only one of the City of Farmington's bargaining units is affected by Michigan's new "Right to Work" law, and city manager Vince Pastue doesn't anticipate the change to have an impact on upcoming contract negotiations.
However, another new law that prohibits local governments from requiring contractors to defend or indemnify them from lawsuits could increase costs and liability, Pastue said during a council study session Monday.
The Right to Work law prohibits requiring employees to pay union dues or join a union as a condition of employment. Pastue said that should not affect negotiations with Dept. of Public Works employees, which will begin this month. Public Safety and Command Officers unions are exempt from the new law.
Pastue said the contractor indemnification law "wasn't on my radar screen, but it's not insignificant." He said that local governments can no longer put standard language in contracts that allows them to be discharged from any complaint over work the contractor has done.
Now, he explained, "if there is any potential litigation, we're going to be party to it." The city would end up with costs for legal representation, along with costs related to expert testimony.
City council member Greg Cowley commented that the city's insurance premiums would likely go up, because of the potential liability.
"In the long run, it could be very harmful to us," Pastue said.