Michigan repeals phony ‘RTW’ law

Publisher Emeritus

MICHIGAN GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER signed a bill repealing the state’s so-called ‘right-to-work’ law on March 24. – Press@mich.gov photo

Following in the footsteps of Missouri voters twice rejecting efforts to foist the phony so-called “right-to-work” law on the state, Michigan just made history by being the first state in 60 years to actually repeal its RTW law passed by a Republican legislature in 2012.

And then, the new Democratic majority in the Michigan legislature passed two new pro-worker laws:

  • Allowing Project Labor Agreements (PLA) that set up both deadlines and worker protections on construction projects. Banning them has been the top goal of the anti-worker Associated Builders and Contractors, an ersatz “grass-roots” association of cut-rate non-union contractors.
  • Instituting a prevailing wage law that the Republicans threw out in 2018 which requires contractors hired for state projects to pay union-level wages.

The effort is the result of Democrats taking a majority in the Michigan legislature which had been controlled by Republicans for the past 40 years. It was signed by Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on March 24. It will take effect in April 2024.

“Today, we are coming together to restore workers’ rights, protect Michiganders on the job, and grow Michigan’s middle class,” the governor said in signing the repeal.

“After decades of anti-worker attacks, Michigan has restored the balance of power for working people by passing laws to protect their freedom to bargain for the good wages, good benefits, and safe workplaces they deserve, “said Ron Bieber, Michigan AFL-CIO president.

“Right-to-work” is a favorite Republican, radical right and corporate cause, which seeks to strip workers and their unions of money and political power.

After Michigan’s move, 26 states are still shackled with the phony RTW law.

Started in the 1940s as a racist way to divide white from Black workers in the South, so-called “right-to-work” spread to Michigan in 2012 after the 2010 Republican legislative sweep there and elsewhere. Given unions’ prominent role in Michigan, the RTW win particularly hurt there.

Contrary to the name, RTW laws don’t guarantee a right to job. What they do is allow “freeloaders” to take advantage of union-won benefits without have to pay a penny to support the union’s efforts. A RTW law simply aims “to undermine unions’ bargaining strength” by making it harder for unions to sustain themselves financially, notes the Economic Policy Institute.

“Union dues are an important stream of revenue that help pay for critical contract negotiations, staff and support of members,” said Rep. Regina Weiss (D-Detroit), sponsor of RTW repeal. “When unions have decreased dues, they have less power to improve working conditions.”

Some supporters of RTW laws falsely claim that these laws ensure that no one is forced to be a member of a union or pay to advocate political causes they do not support. But those things are already illegal under federal law.

In the Labor Tribune’s continuing coverage of the negative impact of the phony RTW law, it’s clear that not only do workers earn less in RTW states, but workers and their families in RTW states are worse off in areas such worker safety, education, impact on working moms, children’s education and so much more.

(Information for this story from PAI Union News Service, Michigan AFL-CIO, various news sources.)

The facts about ‘RTW’

Misleadingly named right-to-work (RTW) laws do not, as some unfamiliar with the term may assume, entail any guarantee of jobs. Rather, by making it harder for unions to sustain themselves financially, state RTW laws aim to undermine unions’ bargaining strength.

Because RTW laws lower wages and benefits, weaken workplace protections and decrease the likelihood that employers will be required to negotiate with their employees, they are advanced as a strategy for attracting new businesses to a state. But EPI research shows that RTW laws do not have any positive impact on job growth.      – Economic Policy Institute



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