From its humble beginnings nearly 50 years ago, the Michigan State Police Troopers Association has evolved to become a leader in the arena of police labor. Prior to the advent of collective bargaining, state police troopers and sergeants were subject to the draconian policies and practices of both the Department of State Police and the state Civil Service Commission. Some of these policies and practices when viewed in the 21st century would seem foreign to many. It was because of these often-subtle oppressions that this proud organization was formed.
In the summer of 1962, Trooper Howard Kelly of Newaygo Post #65 and five other troopers (who would become known as the “Newaygo 6″) visualized an association for the troopers to address issues and concerns between the rank and file and State Police Headquarters in East Lansing. A meeting was set up between Trooper Kelly and State Police Commissioner Joseph Childs. Several issues and concerns were discussed and at the conclusion of this meeting, the “nod” was given to form an association. During the next two years word began to spread across the state, and on July 22, 1964, the Michigan State Police Troopers Association became a reality when the first Executive Board was sworn into office by the Honorable Thomas M. Kavanaugh, Chief Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court.
During the next five years, some of the concerns over salaries, benefits, and work conditions facing state police troopers were also being faced by other law enforcement officers in Michigan. In 1969, Public Act 312 was passed by the Michigan legislature, which enabled police officers and firefighters to collectively bargain with their employers and to have unresolved issues taken to binding arbitration. While this was a landmark piece of legislation for public safety in Michigan, the Act specifically excluded state police troopers. This exclusion did not bode well with the MSPTA. It would take numerous attempts over the next nine years for these same protections to be afforded to troopers and sergeants.
In 1975, a public opinion poll conducted by the MSPTA showed that the Michigan State Police was the most respected law enforcement agency in the state. The MSPTA used these results in their argument with the Civil Service Commission to obtain pay raises and collective bargaining, only to have this information fall on deaf ears. After an unsuccessful try in this area, the MSPTA convinced Representative Ted Stopcznski to introduce House Joint Resolution X which would grant troopers and sergeants the same collective bargaining and arbitration rights that had been established under PA 312. Again, the time was not right, and HJR-X failed in its attempt to bring troopers and sergeants the same rights that were enjoyed by others in public safety.
1976 saw the MSPTA make three attempts to obtain collective bargaining through the legislature, all of which failed. In early 1977, the MSPTA announced that it would launch a petition drive aimed directly at Michigan’s voters in order to obtain the 300,000 signatures needed to get a collective bargaining amendment placed onto the general election ballot for the 1978 state general elections.
State police troopers and sergeants took to the task of obtaining signatures through a statewide petition drive. MSPTA members and other volunteers such as family members, manned booths and collected signatures anywhere they could. In May of 1978, the MSPTA announced that it had collected sufficient signatures to place the collective bargaining amendment on the November ballot. This campaign drive and election process became the pivotal point in the Association’s history, as Michigan voters overwhelmingly passed Proposal G, giving state police troopers and sergeants the constitutional right to collective bargaining and binding arbitration. Two years of bitter labor-management battles would follow, including legal action, before the MSPTA would enjoy its first contract in 1980.
Formed from an idea by a small group of troopers, the MSPTA has grown to become a prominent frontrunner in the area of police labor. Whether working with other police labor organizations on the state or national level, or excelling in its commitment of representation to its 1,500+ members, the MSPTA is respected and recognized as an experienced leader in police labor relations.