What is Michigan's 'Right To Work?' A Primer on Controversial New Law

Tuesday, 11 Dec 2012 08:18 PM

By Megan Anderle

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The debate on Michigan’s “right-to-work” law is continuing to heat up, as the Republican-majority legislature has given its final approval to the controversial bill amid intense protests in a state where organized labor has a stronghold.

Having passed the House and Senate, the measure was quickly signed by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder. Under the new law, employees are no longer required to pay union dues at businesses where unions exist. Michigan is the 24th state to become a “right-to-work” state.

What are supporters saying?
This law will give unions a lot less power, and workers will save on union dues. Employers would have control over working conditions, employees’ salaries, and raises because they wouldn’t have to negotiate with unions. This will make Michigan more attractive to potential employers, thereby improving the economy.

What are opponents saying?
Because unions will have less power, employees will have no collective bargaining rights. Unions won’t be able to help stave off potential layoffs, and there won’t be an entity defending workers, whether it’s negotiating pay raises or advocating for better working conditions.

Why is this a heated issue in Michigan?
Michigan has the fifth highest percentage of unionized workers in the United States, with 17.5 percent of workers in unions, according to Reuters. It’s also home to the United Auto Workers, the richest U.S. labor union. There are more than 700 manufacturing plants in the state, so this will affect a lot of workers.

What’s President Barack Obama’s stance on it?
Obama doesn’t want this bill to be signed into a law, claiming that workers rights’ will be infringed upon.

"These so-called 'right-to-work' laws, they don't have anything to do with economics. They have everything to do with politics," Obama said in a speech in Detroit. "What they're really talking about is they're giving you the right to work for less money."

Now that the governor has signed the bill, is this a done deal?
It might not be. Fox News reports that opponents are planning to mount a legal challenge. Given the rapid manner with which the bills moved and the fact some demonstrators were kept out of the chambers, Democrats say they'll mount a challenge under open-meetings laws. The Detroit Free Press also reports that Democrats could try and challenge a provision that exempts police and firefighters. However, now that Snyder has signed it, the public won’t be able to challenge it under popular vote under Michigan state law.

More From Newsmax on 'Right To Work':
Schools Forced to Close by Teachers Absent Protesting Right-to-Work
WSJ: Right to Work Best Thing for Mich. Since Combustion Engine
Right-to-Work Laws Big Blow to Michigan Unions

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