Union matters are traditionally considered labor law, rather than employment law. However, the recent passage of two “right-to-work” bills in Michigan is such a hot topic that we cannot ignore it, and of course, it can be seen as in issue affecting employees’ rights.
The two new bills, which were signed into law by Gov. Rick Snyder on Tuesday, together allow employees at workplaces represented by unions to opt out of joining the union. In other words, workers cannot be forced to join unions and pay dues associated with that membership.
Advocates of this measure say it promotes individual freedom and will help make Michigan more attractive to employers. Opponents, however, see it as a strike to the financial artery of unions and thus an attempt to weaken them and defray collective bargaining.
“Right-to-work” laws are not uncommon in the southern and western parts of the U.S., where union activity has not been historically strong. However, Michigan is one of the most unionized states in the country; its 17.5 percent of workers who belong to a union is higher than the national average of 11.8 percent.
Indiana, which has also historically been a very unionized state, recently passed a “right-to-work” law as well. This has prompted legal experts to wonder whether a major political and philosphical changes are afoot in the Rust Belt.
No matter your personal views on right-to-work laws, we can all agree that this is a watershed movement in the history of our state and thus is an issue to which we should all pay attention and make an effort to stay reasonably informed upon.
Source: CNN Money, “Michigan lawmakers pass bills weakening union power,” Tami Luhby, Dec. 11, 2012
- Our law firm works extensively with employees from the Detroit area who think they have a legal issue on their hands. For further information, consider visiting our Employee Rights page.