Michigan’s new Right-to-Work Amendment

Right-to-Work
By Thomas L. Boyer

On December 11, 2012, the Michigan legislature passed and Governor Snyder signed an Amendment to the 1939 statute which established the Michigan Employment Relations Commission. This Amendment established Michigan as the 24th Right-to-Work state.

Previously, Michigan was referred to as a Union Shop state. In virtually every collective bargaining agreement in Michigan there is language that states that to retain employment by a unionized employer an employee must join the union within 31 days and pay all fees and dues or pay a service charge, which is approximately the same amount as union dues. If an employee does not satisfy this requirement, the union can compel the employer to fire him or her.

The new Right-to-Work Amendment states in pertinent part:

“An individual shall not be required as a consideration of obtaining or continuing employment to do any of the following: … (B) Become or remain a member of a labor organization. (C) Pay any dues, fees, assessments or other charges or expenses of any kind or amount…to a labor organization.”

Therefore, even if a union is the exclusive bargaining agent of a group of employees, the employees cannot be compelled to be members of the union or pay dues or assessments to the union to avoid termination.

Since a labor organization represents and bargains for the entire bargaining unit, unions view right-to-work legislation as creating a class of workers who refuse to pay dues or a service charge to the union yet take advantage of the benefits provided by the union contract. Additionally, right-to-work opponents point out that wages are lower in right-to-work states.

Supporters of right-to-work legislation argue that such legislation promotes business activity and increases employment. Indiana became a right-to-work state in February, 2012 and claims to have been quite successful in attracting new business. Cause and effect has not yet, however, been proven. But, the fact that the Japanese car companies, Boeing and a high percentage of all new large manufacturing plants are located in right-to-work states is probably not a coincidence.

Regardless of one’s viewpoint on this legislation, it is obvious that the landscape has dramatically changed.

It is important to note that the Michigan Right-to-Work Amendment is effective with the next collective bargaining agreement between the employer and the union. Therefore, if a union contract does not expire until December 31, 2015, nothing changes until then.

For further information regarding these matters, please contact Mr. Boyer at 248.740.5666 or click here to send an email.