The Michigan House of Representatives moved quickly yesterday to advance legislation repealing Michigan’s Right to Work law, which has been in effect for the last decade. Right to Work prohibits the inclusion of a clause in a union labor contract that conditions access to employment (and continued employment) on becoming and remaining a Union member in good standing. Before enactment of Michigan’s Right to Work law, Unions could legally negotiate a union security clause into a labor contract. In a nutshell, union security means that employees performing work covered by a labor contract must join the union and remain in good standing with the union or be terminated. On March 8, the House passed both House Bill 4005 (private sector unions) and House Bill 4004 (public sector unions). The bills will now be taken up by the Michigan State Senate.
What Does Repeal of Right to Work Mean for Michigan Companies?
If Right to Work is repealed, employers with Union labor contracts can expect requests to meet and bargain regarding union security clauses. If repealed, existing labor contracts will not be presumed to include such clauses. Rather, union security clauses and the terms and scope of such provisions are a subject of negotiation. Existing labor contracts should be reviewed with labor counsel to determine the employer’s obligations to engage in mid-contract bargaining on this important topic. Labor contracts on this issue vary. For example, labor contracts may contain:
- A union security clause that becomes effective upon a change in the law;
- An obligation to meet and negotiate with the Company upon a change in the law; or,
- The labor contract may be silent on the issue.
Varnum’s Labor and Employment team is monitoring this issue closely and available to provide counsel regarding bargaining obligations. Please contact a member of the team if you have any questions.