Michigan Passes "Right-To-Work" Law

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder said the “right-to-work” bill would also strengthen Michigan’s competitive position relative to its neighbor, Indiana, which has already passed such a bill.

Michigan’s governor and top legislative leaders declared their joint support on Thursday for right-to-work legislation that would ban contracts requiring all employees to pay union dues.

Bills are expected to be introduced Thursday in the Michigan Senate and House with supporters predicting swift passage in a lame-duck legislative session by the end of the year. The GOP has a majority in both chambers.

The passage of right-to-work legislation in Michigan would be the latest blow to organized labor across the Midwest. Earlier this year, Indiana passed similar right-to-work legislation, and unions failed to recall Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker after he pushed through restrictions on public-employee union rights last year. Both fights prompted Democrats to flee the states for a time in an effort to block the legislation. And voters in Michigan rejected a ballot proposal that would have enshrined collective-bargaining rights in the state constitution.

Republicans in Michigan framed the legislation as a bid to improve fairness and equity for workers who may or may not want to pay to join a union. Labor leaders called the legislation an affront to unions, which would still be responsible for representing the interests of all workers, whether they pay union dues or not.

Under the proposed law, there is an exception for police and firefighters. Gov. Snyder said Thursday that the exception was due to the special circumstances of public-safety workers whose jobs needed protection from labor strife.

The long-term effect of states becoming right to work still remain to be seen. Many right-to-work states in the South had traditionally been places with little unionization. The industrial Midwest has generally rebuffed similar efforts.

But experts say the legislation in Michigan is likely to weaken the power and financial resources of organized labor to some degree, especially in workplaces without a strong union culture.

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