Michigan Right-to-Work Laws: 5 Things to Know

By Deanne Katz, Esq. on December 11, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

After a long day of debating and voting, Michigan is now the nation's 24th "Right to Work" state.

Michigan's House of Representatives on Tuesday approved two bills about union membership for both private and government employees. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican, signed the bills into law a few hours later.

Similar so-called "right-to-work" legislation has spread across the country in recent years. So what does Michigan's new law mean for the Great Lakes State? Here are five things you should know:

  1. No more "closed shops." Right-to-work laws, like Michigan's proposed laws, prohibit unions from requiring that all employees pay membership dues as a condition of employment. Companies can no long deny employment to people who refuse to join the union.

  2. Workers can opt out. Once the bills go into effect, workers can choose not to participate in a company's union. Critics say this allows those employees to benefit from union bargaining and representation without having to pay for it, which could cripple organized labor.

  3. It was actually two bills. Legislators approved two bills Tuesday. One focused on private-sector workers passed with a vote of 58-52, and the other on government employees passed 58-51.

  4. Police and firefighters are exempt. The law has a specific loophole that says police and firefighter unions can compel membership, and those employees can't opt out. Police and firefighters have special collective-bargaining rights under Michigan's state laws and Michigan's constitution, reports The Detroit News.

  5. This proabably isn't the end of the right-to-work fight. Michigan's right-to-work bills may have passed the legislature, but that doesn't mean the battle is over. If the protesters outside the state capitol on Tuesday are any indication, lawsuits and ballot measures challenging the law are likely. Recall petitions against politicians have also been discussed, according to the Los Angeles Times.

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