The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, January 25, 2019

Unlikely RTW repeal measures introduced

By The Building Tradesman

LANSING - The chances of repealing Michigan's seven-year-old right-to-work laws are slim and none - and closer to none. But organized labor in the state appreciates the effort.

Although newly elected Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer would quickly sign a repeal of the dual RTW laws covering public and private workers if such a bill reached her desk, that's not going to happen with an anti-union GOP Legislature still in place in the House and Senate. But state representatives John Chirkun (D-Roseville) and Brian Elder( D-Bay City) have taken the attitude of "why not?" in introducing House Bills 4033 and 4034 in the state Legislature on Jan. 10 - measures that would repeal Michigan's 2012 right-to-work laws for public and private workers.

“For years, Republicans have systematically attacked working people’s power to join together to negotiate for a fair return on their work,” said Chirkun, who introduced HB 4033. “It is time for us to unrig the rules against working families once and for all to protect their freedoms as Michiganders to stand together in a union.”

Right-to-work laws, which are in effect in Michigan and 26 other states, allow non-dues payers in a collective bargaining group to opt out of paying dues, while they still enjoy the benefits of their union contract. 

After last November's election, Republicans still hold a 22-16 edge in the Senate and a 58-52 majority in the state House - although Dems gained five seats in both legislative bodies. "Maybe we can make a deal," Chirkun told the news service MIRS. That idea was shot down by House Speaker Lee Chatfield, (R-Levering), who said,  "right to work has given Michigan workers bigger paychecks and more freedom over what to do with their lives."

Study after study have shown the right-to-work laws lead to weaker unions and lower wages for workers, by an average of $1,500 per year.

“As a proud product of three generations of union autoworkers, I understand all too well the negative impact that this law has had on working families throughout Michigan,” said Elder, chair of the Michigan Legislative Labor Caucus and the sponsor of House Bill 4034. “In reality, these laws allow free-riders to gain the benefits of union representation — increased wages, benefits and workplace safety — without paying to be a member of a union. That’s just morally wrong.”