Is "right to work" an emotional topic in
Michigan? Consider the headline on the front
page of the Sunday Detroit Free Press----Right to work: the battle
for Michigan's soul. For the second time in two months, Michigan residents
are getting a lesson in collective bargaining. The first lesson came when the
unions backed a ballot initiative---Proposal 2--which was advertised as
necessary to protect collective bargaining for all employees. The real purpose
was to insulate collective bargaining agreements from state law oversight. The
proposal was overwhelming defeated by the voters. The Michigan legislature is
now poised to
enact legislation making Michigan a "right to work" state.
A major problem in any discussion of the issue is one of
semantics. The issue really has nothing to do with the ability or right
to work. The more accurate phrase is "right to dues" because the ease
of collecting union dues and requiring union membership are the real issues.
The legislation prohibits
the inclusion of union security clauses in collective bargaining
agreements but exempts collective bargaining agreements currently in effect
until they expire. The impact of the legislation is to end the automatic
deduction of dues from member/employee wages and to give employees the choice
to join a union.
While the impact on unions will depend upon when
collective bargaining agreements expire, one immediate change will likely be
the refocusing on members and local issues. Unions in Michigan will have to
market to their members to show the value of membership; the source of dues is
no longer automatic.
Lansing is about to become a circus, and the state
capitol building will be the big top. Protesters will be in Lansing in force
For many employers, the battle over "right to work" is a distraction
from the ongoing difficult task of trying to recover from the
Detroit/Michigan depression. The political season in Michigan is not
taking a holiday break this year.
For additional Labor and Employment law
insights from John Holmquist, visit the Michigan
Employment Law Connection.
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