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Michigan a Right to Work State?

November 9, 2010

State Right to Work laws require unionized workplaces to be “open shops.” Michigan is a “closed shop” or “union shop” state. This means that it is legal in Michigan to include provisions in a collective bargaining agreement which, regardless of other factors, require that an employee must be terminated if he or she refuses to pay the union-established dues payment, or an equivalent “agency shop” fee. Such a provision would be illegal if Michigan were a Right to Work state.

Currently, 22 states have a Right to Work law. Of the eleven states that reported a seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of less than 7% as of September 2010, seven had Right to Work laws. Michigan’s unemployment rate was 13%.

To become a Right to Work state under Section 14 (b) of the National Labor Relations Act requires a “State” to pass a “law” making it illegal for an agreement “…requiring membership in a labor organization as a condition of employment…” With a divided legislature and a Democratic governor, it was politically impossible to either pass such a law or have the Governor sign it. However, with the Republicans now controlling both houses, and a new Republican Governor and Attorney General, is this now a possibility?

Governor-elect Snyder disregarded this issue during the campaign as being too divisive when compared to other issues. However, there are legislators who are likely to make this an issue despite the Governor’s campaign statements, which of course were made without the foresight of such a controlling Republican victory.

Would he sign such a law if it were passed by the legislature?

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