With the Michigan Democratic party taking control of both sides of the Michigan Legislature this past fall, Democrat Legislators began calling for repeal of Michigan’s Right to Work law.
Right to Work allows workers in Michigan that are in a union to elect out of union membership, not pay union dues, and most importantly keep their job when doing so. Previously, an employee risked losing their job if they quit the union and may also be subject to union discipline such as fines. This law went into effect in December 2012 and has since then given union members control over holding their union accountable by not requiring automatic payment of union dues each and every month. Typically, union dues run 2 – 3 hours of a member’s pay each month.
This holds a union accountable if the services they provide are not up to what members expect or if the union is supporting political causes a member does not support. Allowing a worker to quit the union gives workers an important lever to use when exercising a member’s voice in a large union whose leadership may not have the same agenda or concern for the value of representative services as the individual member.
Under Right to Work a dissatisfied union worker just needs to submit a request to the employer that they no longer want their wages taken for union dues each month. The union may not fine or have the employee fired for doing so.
Back in 2012 under the Snyder administration, Right to Work legislation was considered very controversial in pro-labor Michigan. Now, 26 other states have passed Right to Work legislation.
The Mackinaw Center for Public Policy polled Michigan voters in December and found that today 60% of voters support Right to Work and only 17% are opposed it. Union households were also found to support Right to Work by a 2-1 margin according to the poll taken.
Workers in Michigan value the freedom to choose whether to belong to and support a union. Of course, labor unions do not see this the same way. It is estimated that Right to Work has cost Michigan labor unions over 140,000 dues paying members in the last ten years. Union membership in Michigan was at 542,277 members in 2012 and in 2021 398,659.
This not only hit Michigan’s unions in the pocketbook but has also impacted those who the unions support in Michigan. Who is that? The Michigan Democratic party. The night of the Michigan election when it became clear the Democrats had taken both the House and Senate in Michigan, Livonia State Senator Dayna Polhanki (D- Livonia) tweeted “Good news labor. Union busting ‘Right to Work’ is gonna go bye-bye.”
Now Senate Majority Leader Winnie Brinks, (D- Grand Rapids) stated, “What people need to remember is that the reason we care about that is because we care about working people, and we believe they should be respected for the value that they bring to our economy, and they should be compensated for that.” (M-Live 12/20/22) Why not allow those people the right to choose whether they need the support of a union?
Employers and workers will need to garner support to hold onto Right to Work in Michigan by contacting their state Representatives and Senators to make sure they do not allow this law to be repealed. If not, workers will lose the power to hold their union accountable and will return to having their pay taken out for union dues each month regardless of the service the union provides or the political position and people the unions support.
ASE will be watching for legislative developments as the 102nd Michigan Legislative session gets going with the first Democratic majority in the House and Senate in 40 years.
Sources: Mackinaw Center for Public Policy. Then and Now, Polling on right-to-work in Michigan Shows its Popular 12/7 /2012; Mackinaw Center: Unions with 140 K Fewer Members Since 2012; M-Live What are Michigan Dems’ Priorities as New Majority in 2023 (12/20/2023)