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“Right to Work” Law Repealed in Michigan

On March 24, 2023, Governor Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan repealed the state’s “right to work” law, helping to bring greater access to labor unions to people of her state. This law, which was originally passed in 2012, was meant to hinder the efforts of workers to unionize their fellow employees. With its repeal, however, labor organizers will have a much easier time bringing the protections of unions to their workplaces.

 

What is the “Right to Work” Law? The deceptively named “right to work” law was a law that made it illegal for unions to include “union security” clauses as part of their collective bargaining agreements. These clauses made it a requirement for anyone represented by the union contract to become a part of the union and pay union dues. While the right to work law was in place, union membership was entirely voluntary, meaning that unions could not collect dues from people who didn’t want to pay, hindering their ability to operate. What is the Purpose of Right to Work Laws? On the surface, right to work laws seem beneficial to workers because they prevent unions from forcing people to join them. However, this creates what is known as the “free rider” problem, where people refuse to pay for the benefit of a collective bargaining agreement that they can otherwise get for free. This starves unions of both members and their dues, making it harder to hire staff, maintain strikes, or engage in any of the other activities that unions are meant to do. Why Was the Right to Work Law Repealed? Michigan’s right to work law was repealed to help unions to better organize on behalf of workers. Without union security clauses in collective bargaining agreements, unions often struggled to maintain funds to hire lawyers or negotiations, to compensate workers who went on strike, or to engage in labor organizing efforts. Pro-union lawmakers sought to have the law repealed to make it easier for unions to operate, giving them greater power in negotiating on behalf of workers. What Impact Will This Have On Unions in the State? With the law repealed, unions will once again have the ability to add union security clauses to their contracts, allowing them to more easily collect dues from workers and, by extension, to engage in union organizing. It also means employers will not be able to starve unions by persuading individual workers to avoid paying union dues. Together, this means that labor unions will likely see an increase in their influence in the state, helping them to negotiate on behalf of workers. Steven Mitchell Sack, the Employee’s Lawyer, is a New York employment lawyer with more than 41 years’ experience handling the many aspects of employment law. His new book, “Fired!: Protect Your Rights & FIGHT BACK If You’re Terminated, Laid Off, Downsized, Restructured, Forced to Resign or Quit,” is available in hardback, and contains valuable advice on dealing with employment and labor law issues. To purchase the book, feel free to contact Steven Sack at 917-371-8000 or visit the website at legalstratpub.com. To inquire about a legal matter, please feel free to contact attorney Steven Sack at 917-371-8000 or stevensackatty@hotmail.com.

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