by Bruce Walker
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has signed a bill to repeal right-to-work legislation.
Michigan is the first state to repeal right-to-work laws and restore collective bargaining rights since 1958. Signed Friday, the legislation requires private sector employees to join a workplace union or face termination.
The bill package, labeled “Restoring Workers’ Rights,” included House bills 4004 and 4007 and Senate Bill 34.
House Bill 4004 removes right-to-work protections for public sector workers. The 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31 ruled public employees being forced to pay dues to a union violated their 1st Amendment rights.
In a release, the Democratic second-term governor said, “These bills will protect health and safety, ensuring health care workers can put patient care ahead of profit, construction workers can speak up when there’s a safety issue, and employees can call attention to food safety threats and other problems. Let’s continue delivering for working people and ensuring Michigan is open for business.”
House Bill 4007 requires workers be paid a similar amount to others in the same profession, known as prevailing wage. Unions support the laws because they require employers to pay non-union workers a similar amount as union labor costs.
The law allocates $1 million to the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity. Whitmer made a 2018 campaign promise to veto all referendum-proof legislation. This means that an allocated dollar amount blocks voters from approving or rejecting laws enacted by the Legislature.
In the governor’s release, state Sen. Darren Camilleri, D-Trenton, said, “We were so proud to get this to the governor’s desk, and even prouder to see it signed into law – this is tangible proof that the Republican attack on organized labor has failed. We’re entering a new chapter in Michigan.”
Camilleri was sponsor of the Senate bill.
Joe Lehman, president of the conservative-leaning Mackinac Center for Public Policy, called the repeal “a massive, unforced error that weakens Michigan’s ability to compete globally and signals to the world that there are better places than Michigan to live, work, inves, and create jobs. Compelling support for organized labor does directly and immediately harm tens of thousands who will now be fired if they choose not to support a union. Union coercion is a backward business model, doomed to failure,” he said in a statement.
According to Mackinac, 140,000 Michigan workers chose to leave their respective unions since right-to-work was passed in 2012. In her press release, Whitmer cited a study published eight years ago by the Economic Policy Institute.
Her release said, “workers’ wages in states without strong worker protections are 3.1 percent – on average, $1,600 – lower per year than in states with strong worker protections, after adjusting for differences in cost of living.”
Michigan Freedom Fund Executive Director Sarah Anderson also weighed in against the repeal. In a release, she wrote of Whitmer, “The speed at which you and your legislative allies are destroying Michigan’s business climate is astounding. We will look back at this moment as the beginning of the new Lost Decade. Under your ‘leadership,’ Michigan was already losing jobs and population and the signing of the repeal of our Right to Work law will expedite that process.”
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Bruce Walker is a regional editor at The Center Square. He previously worked as editor at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s MichiganScience magazine and The Heartland Institute’s InfoTech & Telecom News.
Background Photo “Gretchen Whitmer” by Gretchen Whitmer.
To lose investments right