Proposed repeal of Right-to-Work has potential to alter MI workforce


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Grace Smith, Staff Writer

For the first time in decades, the Michigan government has a democratic majority in the state House and Senate. 

Newly appointed democratic officials introduced six new bills during the first legislative meeting on Jan.11. One of the proposed bills, if passed, would repeal Michigan’s Right-to-Work law. 

The legislation is sponsored on Capitol Hill by Representative Regina Weiss and Senator Darrin Camilleri. 

“House Democrats will always stand in solidarity with working families, and these bills deliver on our promise to put them first,” Weiss said in a press statement.

Passed in 2012 by Governor Rick Snyder, Right-to-Work gave employees the option to opt out of unions at unionized workplaces. Likewise, it prevents employees at unionized companies from having to pay union dues to continue their employment.  

The initial passing of the law led to protests at Michigan’s capitol from union supporters. The State News reported statements from protest attendees who argued that injustices would occur from the law to union members, considering it to be an attack on unions themselves. 

At the time, Snyder argued in a press conference that passing the bill was “getting this issue behind us,” however that has not appeared to be the case. Many democrats and left-leaning groups argue that Right-to-Work legislation has continued to erode unions over the last several years by allowing non-union members to still benefit from the power of collective bargaining. 

GVSU College Democrats President Jacob Welch said that the repeal of Right-to-Work can be misconstrued by people who are unfamiliar with what the law states.

Essentially, the repeal of Right-to-Work laws in the state isn’t what the title makes it seem,” Welch said. “I mean the name alone can spark a lot of feelings, but after a quick look at the actual issue, I hope people know what it’ll be doing. It isn’t removing people’s right to work, they’ll still be working, but at most they’ll have to pay union dues which barely scratch at a working person’s salary. Most union dues are based on the salary itself, and is a small percentage, or a due equivalent to your Netflix monthly account.”

Cody DeLano, a member of GVSU’s Young Democratic Socialists of America, is also in favor of the repeal. He said that it’s important to have union presence in Michigan companies. 

“It’s really just getting unions back into a place of more power so people can benefit from them and have higher wages and better healthcare,” DeLano said. “We need unions that are strong to be able to fight for us and fight for better benefits instead of just having to take whatever companies say.” 

Should the repeal pass, Michigan would become the first state in almost 60 years to retract the conditions of Right-to-Work. Union membership dropped to 13.3% of Michigan’s workforce in 2021, a change that’s attributed to the effects of the Right-to-Work legislation.  

The bill for repeal is ongoing. However, if passed, it could alter the future of Michigan’s workforce – especially when considering the state’s strong ties to the auto industry and subsequently large auto unions. The repeal could recreate a potential butterfly effect for the Michigan economy.