Michigan Legislature Sends Right to Work Repeal to Governor’s Office
The Michigan Legislature has sent Governor Gretchen Whitmer pro-union bills that include repealing the decade-old Right to Work Act.
The bills’ passage was the fulfillment of a promise made by Democrats and a long-held wish of unions since Michigan became a right-to-work state in a turbulent and contentious session in 2012. when Republicans held power in the state Capitol. The 2012 law allows workers not to pay union dues even if their workplace is represented by a union.
“It’s huge,” Michigan AFL-CIO President Ron Bieber said of the repeal legislation. “It’s huge for the entire labor movement nationwide to have a victory for workers and to make progress for change.”
People cheered from the galleries as the bills were cleared from the State House and the Senate before being handed to Governor Gretchen Whitmer, who said she would sign them. The legislature also passed bills requiring state contractors to pay union-level wages.
The bills passed over objections from Republicans who argued that repeal of the right to work would make Michigan less business-friendly.
Democratic Representative Regina Weiss said it was a false choice.
“You don’t have to choose to support businesses and then choose to screw up workers,” she said. “You can support businesses. You can support workers at the same time. And supporting workers also helps support investment in our economy.
But Senate Republican Leader Aric Nesbitt called the bills a setback for the state’s economy.
“There are a lot of manufacturers who will only consider right-to-work states,” he said. “And that’s going to be a challenge going forward is that it shows how unserious Democrats and Governor Whitmer are in trying to grow the economy.”
Republicans also cried foul because the bills included appropriations, which would inoculate new law against a referendum. Whitmer criticized the tactic after a Republican-led legislature did the same to protect the 2012 election from contestation.
The Michigan Constitution protects budget bills from referendums to protect the state’s credit rating and its ability to pay its debts.
But right-to-work supporters say the fight may not be over as they plan to launch a ballot campaign to replace repeal by amending the Michigan Constitution.