Michigan Seems Likely to Become 24th Right to Work State
After months of inaction on the issue, the announcement this week by Governor Rick Snyder that he would sign Right to Work legislation if it was sent to his desk triggered almost immediate action. Both the House and Senate passed bills on Thursday that would prohibit collective bargaining agreements from requiring employees to pay union membership dues as a condition of their employment. Final versions of the legislation could be sent to Snyder’s desk as early as Tuesday, assuming final passage by the Legislature.
The State Capitol was flooded on Thursday with hundreds of protesters, many of who stood in the rotunda outside both the House and Senate chambers and chanted loudly for hours during the legislative session. At one point, State Police closed down the Capitol for several hours for safety reasons, but union officials sought and quickly obtained an injunction to force the building back open.
Meanwhile, the House passed a bill allowing right to work for private-sector employees, but it won’t be sent to the Senate until at least Tuesday due to a procedural objection by House Democrats. That likely won’t matter, though, because the Senate passed an identical bill, as well as one that applies to public-sector workers. The House is expected to take up both of those bills Tuesday and bring them forward for a final vote that same day.
The issue is largely a financial one for labor unions. Without mandatory dues collection, union officials are concerned that revenue from dues won’t be enough to continue providing the services they offer members, including staffing legal aides and researchers to assist during collective bargaining of wages and other benefits. Nothing in the bill would prohibit union membership or collective bargaining.
Other than the issue of dues collection there is expected to be little immediate change for employees in a union shop. Under federal law, the National Labor Relations Act, unions must provide the same benefits to workers regardless of whether they are dues-paying union members. In other words, an employee in a unionized workplace can’t be offered a different wage or be subject to different working conditions based on whether he or she pays dues.