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HomePoliticsMichigan Repeals ‘Right-To-Work’ Law In Major Labor Victory

Michigan Repeals ‘Right-To-Work’ Law In Major Labor Victory

democrats have taken power in Michigan and they are using it.

On Friday Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) signed legislation repealing the state’s decades-old “right to work,” marking a setback for the state’s conservative movement and a landmark victory for its unions.

“Today we come together to restore workers’ rights, protect Michiganans at work, and grow Michigan’s middle class,” Whitmer said in a statement.

Right to work laws prohibit unions and employers from entering into agreements that require each worker to pay fees under the contract to cover negotiation and representation costs. Unions despise the laws, saying they lead to “free riders,” where workers choose not to pay union dues but still enjoy the benefits of a union contract.

Republican leaders passed the state’s Right to Work Act a decade ago. But once Democrats regained the levers of power after last year’s elections, they quickly set about dismantling it. Both the House of Representatives and the Senate recently enacted repeal laws on party-line votes and sent the legislation to Whitmer’s desk.

Unions welcomed the repeal on Friday. Michigan AFL-CIO chief Rob Bieber said the state has “restored the balance of power” for workers.

“After decades of attacks on working people, it’s a new day in Michigan and the future is bright,” Bieber said in a statement.

right to work Laws were legalized by Congress in 1947 and have since spread to most states, including some with historically strong labor movements like Wisconsin. Michigan Republicans led by the government of the time. Rick Snyder (R) passed Michigan law in 2012, dealing a blow to organized labor in a state that is the heart of the US auto industry.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed a repeal of Michigan's right to work, showing the new power of Democrats in the state.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed a repeal of Michigan’s right to work, showing the new power of Democrats in the state.

Bill Pugliano via Getty Images

The Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning think tank, said the law Whitmer signed into law was the first repeal of a state right-to-work law in almost 60 years.

Now that the law is off the books, private sector unions in the state can once again negotiate so-called “union security” clauses. These are requirements that require every worker in the bargaining unit to pay fees to cover the costs associated with negotiating and enforcing the contract. (Michigan’s legislature also voted to repeal the right-to-work law for public sector unions, but that move was only symbolic, as the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the the entire right to work in the US public sector in 2018.)

The Right to Work Act was not Whitmer’s only pro-work move on Friday. She also signed another bill into law that will restore the state’s “prevailing wage law,” which sets minimum wages and benefits for employees on government projects, such as construction and service workers. Such laws, often criticized by conservatives, keep wage rates higher on government-funded construction sites and encourage the use of union workers.

Whitmer’s office said restoring the law would “put more money in people’s pockets” and guarantee Michigan would have a “well-educated, skilled workforce.”



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