The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, March 11, 2016

Right to work reform bill proposed

By The Building Tradesman

LANSING - Legislation that would allow unionized employees to vote on right-to-work policies in their workplace was introduced March 1.

The bills would change Michigan’s controversial right-to-work laws to allow public and private employers to agree to all-union contracts if such contracts are supported by the employees. All employees in the bargaining group would then be compelled to pay union dues or so-called “fair-share fees,” a requirement made illegal by the 2012 right-to-work law that was adopted in Michigan.

House Bills 5398 and 5399 would require a majority of all employees in a bargaining unit - or, three-quarters of the employees who actually cast votes - to support the workplace changes in order for them to take affect. The legislation was introduced by State Rep. Robert Dosowski (D-Dearborn Hts.).

“If the employees are upset that they have to pay" union dues, "then they can vote no,” Kosowski said. “It gives full authority to the union people.”

Legislation to reconsider the state's right-to-work law have been introduced in the past, but not acted upon, since the original law was adopted. Republican lawmakers have sought to expand the law to include state police troopers and other state law enforcement personnel, while Democratic lawmakers have sought to repeal the RTW laws, which cover both public and private employees.

The conservative Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a strong advocate for Michigan's right-to-work law, couldn't move quickly enough to denounce the pro-union legislation, which has very little chance of being adopted.

"But workers already get to vote on whether or not they want to financially support a union," Jarrett Skorup wrote for the Mackinac Center. "Under Michigan’s right-to-work law, employees have full authority to fund a union if they choose. All this bill would do is force some workers to pay money to a union against their will."

Labor unions have maintained that right-to-work allows "free riders" to enjoy the benefits of union membership without having to pay dues. Kosowski told the Lansing State Journal that his legislation offers a compromise because it “doesn’t abolish right-to-work, but it sure does soften the blow.”