Michigan Repeals Right-to-Work Laws

Author: Robert S. Teachout, XpertHR Legal Editor

March 27, 2023

Michigan's status as a "right-to-work" state will soon be over. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has signed two bills that repeal provisions prohibiting agreements between unions and employers that require employees to either join the union or pay fees to support the union's collective bargaining efforts. One bill applies to private sector employment and the other to the public sector. This marks the first time in 58 years that a state has repealed a right-to-work law.

"Today, we are coming together to restore workers' rights, protect Michiganders on the job, and grow Michigan's middle class," Gov. Whitmer said in a prepared statement. "Michigan workers are the most talented and hard-working in the world and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect."

Senate Bill 34 repeals the labor relations provisions governing private employment that prohibit requiring an employee, as a condition of employment, to join a union or pay any fees to a union. Instead, the law explicitly permits an employer and union to enter into a collective bargaining agreement that requires all employees to share in the financial support of the union, either as members or by the paying a "fair share" fee.

The other bill, H.B. 4004, applies to public sector employment, and asserts as a public policy that all employees in a bargaining unit should share in the financial support of their exclusive bargaining representative to promote the stability and effectiveness of labor relations in the public sector. However, supporters of the law acknowledge that it would only be applicable in the event that the US Supreme Court's decision in Janus v. AFSCME is overturned. That ruling held that public-sector unions may not charge nonmembers mandatory fees.

Michigan's right-to-work law was passed in 2012 and signed by then-Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican. In the wake of the law's passage, unions and state's Democratic Party have worked to overturn the law.

This is the first time a state legislature has overturned a right-to-work law since Indiana repealed its law in 1965. However, Indiana restored its law in 2012. Although in 2017 Missouri enacted a right-to-work law, it was repealed by voters by referendum in 2018 without the law ever becoming effective. Without Michigan, there are 26 right-to-work states remaining.

The Michigan laws will go into effect when the legislature adjourns, expected near the end of the year.