State Watch

Michigan Senate votes to repeal right-to-work law in victory for organized labor

The Michigan Senate approved a bill on Tuesday to repeal the state’s right-to-work law that allows employees in unionized jobs to opt out of membership and paying dues in a victory for organized labor, sending the bill to the state House.

The bill, which narrowly passed along party lines in a 20-17 vote, would remove language from the state’s Employment Relations Commission Act that has allowed individuals at unionized workplaces to not be required to become a member of a union or pay any fees or dues to the union. 

The state House has approved its own version of the legislation, but must agree on the final language for the bill. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) has said she will sign the bill into law if it comes to her desk. 

The bill will likely be the next major legislative win for the state’s Democrats, who won control of both the state Senate and House and the governorship for the first time in 40 years in November. 

Senate Majority Leader Winnie Brinks (D) proclaimed that “it is a new day here in Lansing.” 

Union supporters have praised the bill, saying that the right-to-work law has harmed workers’ wages and rights in the decade since it was passed. Opponents have argued that the right-to-work law has made the state’s businesses more competitive. 

Senate Republicans argued that the bill would take away workers’ ability to decide for themselves whether to join a union and would financially support labor organizations that support Democratic campaigns, The Detroit News reported

“This isn’t about policy,” said state Sen. Thomas Albert (R), the only Republican on the Senate Labor Committee. “It’s about politics. This is basically a political fundraiser being launched at the state Capitol.” 

The right-to-work law was originally passed in 2012 when Republicans had control of both houses of the Michigan legislature and the governorship. 

The National Conference of State Legislatures reports that 27 states and Guam currently have right-to-work laws.

Tags Gretchen Whitmer labor union Michigan

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