Democrats Push for Right-to-Work Law Repeal in Michigan
Gaining control of the Michigan legislature and governorship for the first time in almost 40 years, Democrats have now made the repeal of the state’s right-to-work law a high priority backed by organized labor. The legislation, which passed the House earlier this week and now heads to the Senate for a final vote, would allow workers in unionized jobs to opt out of paying union dues and fees.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer has said she intends to sign the bills repealing the right-to-work law, even with the appropriation. This would prevent a future ballot initiative to overturn the repeal as the Michigan Constitution prohibits referendums on laws with appropriations.
Right-to-Work laws were enacted in 2012 by Republicans and have given workers a choice to pay union membership dues or fees. Since then, union membership in Michigan has dropped from 17.1 percent of the workforce to 15.3 percent.
Critics of the repeal legislation argue that it would make Michigan less appealing to business investment and force workers to join a union even if they don’t want to. The Michigan Chamber of Commerce’s Wendy Block said removing right to work would make Michigan less competitive nationally.
Democrats have countered that the legislation will benefit workers by strengthening union bargaining power. House Democrats approved the bills in 56-53 votes despite uniform Republican opposition. The package is on its way to the Senate, which is controlled by the Democrats, and could possibly be addressed as of the coming week.
Also up for a vote Tuesday was the Senate bill to restore prevailing wage, a policy that contractors pay union wages for state construction projects that was overturned by the Republican-controlled legislature in 2018.
Those against the rescinding of right-to-work legislation could still gather signatures as a means to oppose the law in 2024, however, it would require a constitutional amendment as opposed to a referendum and twice the amount of signatures: 446,198 as opposed to 223,099.
At the Tuesday Labor Committee hearing, several union representatives and workers showed up to demand the repeal of Right-to-Work, claiming it lowers wages for workers and impedes unions from organizing. Senate Republicans argued that the bill would take away workers’ ability to decide for themselves whether to join a union and would financially support labor organizations that support Democratic campaigns.
0. “Michigan Senate approves bill to repeal right-to-work law” WZZM13.com, 15 Mar. 2023, https://www.wzzm13.com/article/news/politics/michigan-senate-approves-right-to-work-repeal/69-1527a767-0088-4e59-82cc-33ce4f793327
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5. “Michigan House passes bills to repeal right-to-work” Detroit Free Press, 9 Mar. 2023, https://www.freep.com/story/news/politics/2023/03/08/michigan-house-passes-bills-to-repeal-right-to-work/69987424007/
6. “Senate passes ‘right-to-work’ repeal, but delays sending bills to governor” MLive.com, 14 Mar. 2023, https://www.mlive.com/politics/2023/03/senate-passes-right-to-work-repeal-but-delays-sending-bills-to-governor.html
7. “MI Legislature moves closer to Right-to-Work repeal” Interlochen, 15 Mar. 2023, https://www.interlochenpublicradio.org/2023-03-15/mi-legislature-moves-closer-to-right-to-work-repeal
8. “Michigan Senate votes to repeal right-to-work law in victory for organized labor” The Hill, 15 Mar. 2023, https://thehill.com/homenews/state-watch/3900517-michigan-senate-votes-to-repeal-right-to-work-law-in-victory-for-organized-labor/