For the first time in four decades, the Michigan Democratic Party holds control of the state government. Employers have benefited from GOP control over the years as unfriendly employer legislation was bottled up in committees never to see the light of day. With the Michigan Legislature now controlled by a Democrat majority and a Democrat Governor there is not much to stop the flood of pro-labor legislation that has been held back for years.
Right out of the gate is the call to repeal right-to-work. The Right-to Work law has benefited both Michigan’s economy and its workers. Despite Big Labor’s presence in Michigan this law has attracted more businesses to Michigan as a right-to-work/no prevailing wage state for the last 8 – 10 years. There is currently a bill in the Michigan House to repeal this law. There is also a bill (HB 4175) to allow unions to charge an agency fee for non-union members in bargaining agreements as a condition of employment in the public sector.
Right-to Work allows employees of union organized employers (public and private) to opt out of union membership without the threat of job loss or union fines for doing so. Labor brands right-to work as union busting. Workers have benefited because right-to work saves workers money in union dues they would have to pay and gives them more of a voice over Big Labor’s political agenda. How? Labor’s political agenda does not line up with all workers’ political views and beliefs. But union dues paid by workers do support Big Labor’s political agenda. Allowing a worker to opt out of union membership allows the worker to send the union a message about their political objectives.
Livonia State Senator Dayna Polhanki (D – Livonia) tweeted on election night “Good news, labor. Union-busting ‘Right to Work’ is gonna go bye-bye.”
Prevailing wage was a law that required businesses providing goods or services to Michigan government to pay their workers at union contract levels regardless of whether they were unionized or not. This set up higher labor costs for businesses that want to bid on state government work. In turn, this causes the state government to pay more tax dollars on those projects in order for contractors to meet the prevailing wage. The State of Michigan abolished prevailing wage back just after they voted in right-to-work. Now with the new makeup of the Michigan Legislature, prevailing wage as a law will no doubt be re-introduced with a good chance of passage. Return to prevailing wage will drive up the cost of work done for the state.
Though through the Courts, Michigan has extended the coverage of its Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act’s coverage to protect against discrimination based upon sexual orientation and gender identity, the legislature will most likely introduce fresh legislation to encapsulate these protections formally in that law. Legislation extending the protections under Elliot-Larsen has long been introduced but never passed in Michigan. Prognosticators of politics sees this amendment to state law as a priority of the state Democratic party.
And let’s not forget the change to the Michigan Paid Sick Leave Act, now reverted to the Earned Sick Time Act. Though still in the Courts on appeal, the new Michigan Legislature already has a bill (HB 4177) intended to instill the original Earned Sick Time Act that requires Michigan employers to pay for time off due to illness and other circumstances. This law applies to employers under 10 employees in size as well as larger employers over 50. In February, the original Earned Sick Time Act law will most likely be the law of Michigan land. If the Courts see fit to overturn the lower courts holding that the Michigan Paid Sick Leave law was unconstitutionally amended, then this law will not be needed, unless the Democrats want to expand the paid sick leave law.
Same goes for Michigan’s minimum wage law. HB 4413 sitting in Committee calls for the minimum wage to increase to $15 incrementally by January 2026. After that, the minimum wage will be increased pursuant to the percentage change in the CPI. If inflation keeps running at current rates, employers (particularly in hospitality and retail industries) will be regularly incurring higher personnel costs. These higher costs will result in irregularly higher prices at McDonalds, Starbucks, DQ, and so on. Some prognosticators are already predicting the new Legislature will introduce a bill making $15/hr effective as soon as possible.
Other pro-labor/worker legislation that is currently enrolled but was “in Committee” include:
- Striking the provision disqualifying claimants that are absent without notice out of the unemployment law (HB4507, 4755 & 4509)
- Repeal act that permits employers to solicit strikebreakers (HB 4958)
- Modification of Michigan wage and hour law to expand non-exempt classification (overtime and recordkeeping requirements) to more workers (HB 5137)
- Requiring severance pay for business closing or mass layoffs (HB 5140)
- Requiring paid parental leave (HB 5350)
- Prohibit discrimination based upon illness or health of an employee’s family member (HB 5829) or discrimination based upon certain lawful activities during non-working hours (smoking or marijuana use) (HB 5830)
- And a more radical bill that requires Michigan employers to have “just cause” for termination of employment. Overturning Michigan’s at-will employment status. (HB 5831)
The above Bills are just the ones in the House. There are close to 60 employment bills addressing the above issues and many more in the Michigan Senate. These are just some of the bills that await possible passage by the new Democratic Legislature majority. Get ready for a lot of law changes and new employment costs if the Michigan Legislature and Governor Whitmer start rolling on all the legislation the Democrats lined up over the years but were stonewalled by the GOP.
Source: Gongwer Legislative Reports (11/12/2022), CAPCON 2023 in Michigan Could See $15 Minimum Wage, Right to Work repeal (11/13/2022)