By Brendan Fischer on December 11, 2012

Amidst massive pro-labor protests, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has signed sweeping legislation attacking private and public sector unions, just hours after passing the lame-duck legislature. The operative language in the bills is nearly identical to the American Legislative Exchange Council's "model" Right to Work Act.

Both HB 4003, which affects public sector unions, and HB 4054 / SB 116 affecting private sector unions, undermine collective bargaining by allowing workers to opt-out of paying the costs of union representation. As the Center for Media and Democracy's Executive Director Lisa Graves reported today, the move is calculated political payback attacking unions for supporting Democrats. Wages are lower for both union and non-union workers in Right to Work states, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

The legislation is straight out of the Koch-funded ALEC playbook. It comes as no surprise that key sponsors of the Michigan bill in the House and the Senate such as Senator Arlan Meekhoff, Rep. Tom McMillin, and Rep. Pete Lund are ALEC members. Michigan legislators talked about their plans for passing Right to Work at the NASCAR reception of the ALEC Spring Task Force Meeting in Charlotte, NC earlier this year according to a legislator from New Hampshire. 

Compare the language in HB 4003 and HB 4054/SB116 with the ALEC "model" Right to Work Act:

HB 4003 ALEC right to work

See a PDF of the HB 4033 side-by-side here, and a PDF of the HB 4054/SB116 side-by-side here.

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This article has been updated.

Brendan Fischer

Brendan Fischer is CMD's General Counsel. He graduated with honors from the University of Wisconsin Law School.

Comments

We are no longer a democracy when bills pass without public approval or vote. This was already denied in public vote, reworded by our Dictator (I mean, eh-hem, Governor and his minions) and passed without public polls. Michigan is falling apart, the government is corrupt, what will they do next?

do the non-union people get representation from the unions when they don't join/pay? if yes, that's not right. if no, then let the choice be made by the person, not the law. also, we've never been a democracy - that governor was elected to represent a bunch of people. like how land-owning white guys were the only ones that counted at first.

Yes they do, because the union negotiates collectively for all workers at a site. You could always work at a place and not join the union, but you did have to pay for the cost of their negotiating on your behalf. Now, what could be better than getting union perks without paying for them? I'm sure that won't cause any friction on the factory floor.

The union is the one truly taking advantage of the collective bargaining arrangement. By Jarrett Skorup | Dec. 10, 2012:

http://www.michigancapitolconfidential.com/18017

It does make some valid points about Union activities though. I wouldn't really want to be a part of a union that supported something I didn't and I understand that.

The article cherry-picks when it states that Nevada and Iowa have relatively high unionization rates. 20 of the 25 least unionized states have RTW laws. Less than 11 percent of the work force in each of those 25 states are members of unions. Of the 25 most unionized states, 3 have RTW laws, Nevada (15th), Indiana (22nd) and Iowa (24th). Nevada and Iowa don't exactly have large workforces either, Nevada has the 17th smallest workforce and Iowa has the 22nd smallest workforce.

Indiana is probably the lone exception as it has the 15th largest workforce. Interesting enough, 8 of the 25 largest workforce states have under 7 percent unionization and all 8 of them have RTW laws.

None of that means Right-To-Work kills unions, although it would seem that would be the effect since union dues are no longer required, less people would pay them to the point that it wouldn't make sense to have a union. Short term, this will probably have little effect on wages/annual salaries but it remains to be seen what happens long term.

Perhaps it's true that unions today don't actually do what their supposed to do which is represent the workforce in salary/benefits negotiations however the need for workforce representation remains necessary.

Without workforce organization/representation there is nothing stopping employers from paying minimum salaries and benefits in order to maximize profits.

The article makes a better case that we should have union regulation laws instead of anti-union laws. If unions were regulated and had limitations on what percentages they could spend on non-representation activities then that would likely be favorable to everyone.

RTW

Michigan voters already made it clear they don't want the unions. This was done in Prop 2 during general election. That is why Gov could go ahead with this bill. Prop 2 says, “No existing or future law of the state or its political subdivisions shall abridge, impair or limit” unions’ ability to “negotiate in good faith regarding wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment…” In other words, government unions will no longer be governed by elected officials, the taxpayers, or even the laws of the state; those would all be subordinated to a collective bargaining agreement. This bill is about freedom of choice. If you remember, this is what country was founded on, but apparently the liberals don't care about that. Thank you.

You are right they voted down Prop 2, but you are wrong about their feelins about unions. A no vote did not mean they wanted to become a right to work state--which by the way has driven down wages, benefits, safe working conditions in what is it--7 out of the ten states that have it. Freedom of choice you say, well the unions should also have freedome of choice--they bargain for their own members and those free loaders bargain for their own--that would be real freedom. Like your 40 hour week, like your paid vacations, like safe working conditions, like it when you get represented if you have a problem with management--thank a union. However, for your freedome of choice--do it on your own. I am for a two teir sysem of pay--that should solve the problem. And this is an almost perbatem law written up by ALEC--check it out and if you think they are for you--well you need to rethink that And back to that voting down the proposition--there were so many ballet proposals it was overwhelming. And I would also like to state if the voters were so for this, why did the legislators do this without hearings, putting a money part to it so it would be much harder to repeal--yeah, sure--they did it because they knew that it would not be popular. And hope the right to work law hits you right where it will hurt--your billfold.

REGARDLESS of where you stand on any pending legislation, there is no valid MORAL argument for allowing elected legislators who have been VOTED OUT of office by their constituents to vote on proposed legislation in a "lame duck" session. These people weren't "laid off", they were FIRED, and should at BEST, be given their "severance" pay, made to hand in their keys, and sent home, as in the "private sector". The exceptions should be for voluntary retirement or election to a higher office by their constituents.
If they ran for re-election, but lost, the legislative body to which they HAD belonged could then proceed, even if that body consisted of fewer members, OR the proposed legislation could be "tabled" until the swearing in of replacement members.
After all, if an employee is FIRED in the private sector, even the highest paid CEO's with "golden parachutes", they are escorted to the door by security and their security passes are immediately revoked.
Doesn't the public deserve the same security measures?

As long as we continue to refer this to exploitation by it's Frank Luntz cute, patriotic phrasing we have ceded part of the battle. We should be referring to this corporate profiteering for what it is 'The Right to Exploit'.