Michigan Repeals Right-to-Work Law After 2023 Vote

Feb. 20, 2024
Governor says repeal will increase the middle class; opponents say it will discourage global investment.

Michigan became the first state in 58 years to repeal its 2012 “Right-to-Work” law last Tuesday, February 12. The policy, which allowed union-represented employees to opt out of paying union dues, was struck from the books by Michigan Senate Bill 34. Bill 43 was signed into law by Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer in March 2023 and came into effect 90 days after the legislature adjourned in November.

The vote, and the effective repeal removing the law from the books, came respectively before and after a nationwide United Auto Workers strike shut down production of three Michigan-based auto manufacturers.

Governor Whitmer, a Democrat, signed the bill repealing right-to-work on a party-line vote against staunch Republican opposition. Michigan’s right-to-work law was originally passed on opposite party lines in 2012.

Proponents of the original right-to-work policy say it decreased costs of operations for Michigan manufacturers and made Michigan competitive with neighboring states with similar laws; opponents of the policy say it intentionally depressed manufacturing wages and discouraged union membership.

In a statement Friday, February 16, Whitmer said the move would “restore workers’ rights, protect Michiganders on the job, and grow Michigan’s middle class.”

The Detroit Regional Chamber, which names area UAW-represented automakers Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis among its “elite” members, said repealing right-to-work would have little real-world impact, but would still make Michigan a less attractive target for international investment.

“Businesses that are union shops continue to partner with unions and only a small percentage of union workers opt out of paying dues,” the Chamber said in a February 13 statement, adding that right-to-work states “have a distinct advantage” in attracting international businesses.

The last state to repeal its “right-to-work” policy, Indiana, did so in 1965, before the state legislature voted to restore it in 2012. Michigan’s repeal means there are now 26 states with right-to-work laws on the books.

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