HR Management & Compliance

Michigan now a right-to-work state

Long a union stronghold, Michigan has become the latest state to pass right-to-work legislation. The fight, though, likely will rage on.

State legislators on December 11 approved legislation that prohibits workplaces from requiring all employees to pay all union dues. The legislation was pushed by the Republican majority in the state legislature. On Tuesday afternoon, it was being reported that the bills could be delayed for a brief time on procedural grounds (a motion to reconsider) by Democrats. Republican Governor Rick Snyder, nevertheless, was expected to sign the bills as early as Wednesday. He indicated he would sign the measure even though he had earlier said right-to-work legislation was too divisive and therefore wasn’t on his agenda.

The vote in the legislature isn’t the first blow organized labor has suffered recently in Michigan. Voters in the November election soundly turned down an initiative that would have put the right to collective bargaining in the state’s constitution.

As the Republican-backed right-to-work law gathered momentum, state Democratic lawmakers tried to get Republicans to change the proposal so that it could be repealed through a ballot initiative, according to media reports. But since the proposal included an appropriations bill, it’s exempt from going before the voters. Without the change the Democrats sought, foes of the law won’t be able to mount a timely challenge, although they will likely target its proponents in future elections.

Also, union supporters were staging protests on December 11 ahead of the vote, and President Barack Obama spoke in favor of their efforts during a visit to a Michigan auto industry plant on December 10.

“We should do everything we can to encourage companies like Daimler to keep investing in American workers,” Obama was quoted as saying at the Daimler-owned Detroit Diesel Corporation in Redford, Michigan. “What we shouldn’t be doing is trying to take away your rights to bargain for better wages and working conditions.”

Michigan becomes the 24th state to pass a right-to-work law and joins other states such as Indiana, Ohio, and Wisconsin that have recently waged efforts to weaken unions.

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