Michigan passes public sector “right-to-work” law amid protests
12/11/12 By Bernie Woodall | Reuters
LANSING, Michigan (Reuters) – The Republican-majority Michigan legislature gave final approval on Tuesday to “right-to-work” restrictions on public sector unions in a state considered a stronghold of organized labor, as protesters chanted in the gallery and thousands rallied outside.
The House passed the measure making membership and payment of union dues voluntary for public sector employees such as teachers by a 58-51 vote. The Senate approved the same bill last week so it will now go to Republican Governor Rick Snyder, who has promised to sign it into law.
The public sector law was the first of two expected to be approved by the House on Tuesday. The other covers private sector workers, including the large auto industry in Michigan.
More than 12,000 workers from throughout Michigan and the U.S. Midwest protested as the legislature voted, most gathered in freezing temperatures and a light snow outside the building to show their displeasure.
Michigan State Police Inspector Gene Adamczyk said the Capitol was closed to visitors when it reached capacity of 2,200. An estimated 10,000 people demonstrated outside.
A right-to-work law is a statute in the United States of America that prohibits union security agreements, or agreements between labor unions and employers that govern the extent to which an established union can require employees’ membership, payment of union dues, or fees as a condition of employment, either before or after hiring.
Right-to-work laws exist in twenty-three U.S. states, mostly in the southern and western United States. Such laws are allowed under the 1947 federal Taft–Hartley Act. A further distinction is often made within the law between those employed by state and municipal governments and those employed by the private sector with states that are otherwise union shop having right to work laws in effect for government employees.
Opponents argue that right-to-work laws restrict freedom of association, and limit on the sorts of agreements individuals acting collectively can make with their employer, by prohibiting workers and employers from agreeing to contracts that include “fair share fees“. This creates a free rider problem since unless non-union employees pay fair share fees, they are benefiting from collective bargaining without paying union dues. Thus, the services provided to them by the union contract are being subsidized by paying union members.
The AFL-CIO union federation argues that by weakening unions, the laws create a race to the bottom, leading to lower wages and worse safety and health conditions for workers. A race to the bottom can result in low-level equilibrium, where states are unable to raise labor standards for fear of capital flight. For these reasons, unions refer to right-to-work states as “right to work for less” states or “right-to-fire” states, and to non-right-to-work states as “free collective bargaining” states.
Senator Gretchen Whitmer Furiously Slams Republicans over Right to Work Legislation
Published on Dec 6, 2012
The fight begins today: http://www.facebook.com/RespectMIVote
President Obama Denounces Right-to-Work Laws at Visit to Auto Plant
Published on Dec 10, 2012
President Obama, in Detroit, remarks on the looming fiscal cliff and workers’ rights.
” I just got to say this — what we shouldn’t be doing is trying to take away your rights to bargain for better wages and working conditions. (Applause.) We shouldn’t be doing that. (Applause.) These so-called “right to work” laws, they don’t have to do with economics; they have everything to do with politics. (Applause.) What they’re really talking about is giving you the right to work for less money. (Applause.)
You only have to look to Michigan — where workers were instrumental in reviving the auto industry — to see how unions have helped build not just a stronger middle class but a stronger America. (Applause.)”