Protecting Right-to-work Laws: The Window of Freedom for Michigan Workers

10 years ago we came together to protect the interest of all Michigan workers, unions, and our state’s economy by advocating to make Michigan a right-to-work state. Since then, we’ve made significant progress for our state’s economy. As a result, wages have increased and Michigan has created significantly more jobs. We are now on par with many other right-to-work states – especially neighboring states like Indiana. Right-to-work was officially passed on December 11, 2012, as a push for inclusive representation for all workers. Prior to right-to-work, employees were forced to pay some of their hard-earned income to unions that often didn’t work for their interests. If they refused to comply, they would lose their job.

Without the right-to-work law, unions are highly politicized and strip workers of their freedoms as an American. In 2022, 98.54% of the National Education Association’s spending was allocated to supporting Democratic candidates or causes, which forced many teachers to financially support positions and organizations that don’t align with their values.

Now, since becoming a right-to-work state, Michiganders don’t have to choose between their principles and their job. Michigan workers can opt out of supporting unions that don’t align with their interests or values without losing their jobs. This is a fundamental freedom that had been taken away prior to the passage of the law in 2012.

The law was brought forth to protect private sector employees following a decision resulting from the Supreme Court’s 2018 Janus v. AFSCME, which had already enacted right-to-work protections for all public sector employees in the United States.

Giving private sector employees the choice of union representation also protects workers who do decide to opt for union membership. Now, through the right-to-work law, unions must earn the support of workers, which holds them more accountable for the policies they fight for and the way they spend their dues as bargaining representatives. The law challenges unions to show up better and stronger on behalf of their members, knowing the work they do directly impacts their bottom line, rather than guaranteeing union revenue through forced support.

Basically, the right-to-work law ensures that unions work for the people that support them.

In Michigan, right-to-work has meant:

  • More jobs: Michigan lost 379,400 jobs in the nine years prior to the right-to-work law and added 155,100 jobs in the nine years after.*
  • Better income: Inflation-adjusted average incomes were flat in the nine years before the right-to-work law and rose robustly by 21.9% in the nine years after the enacted law.
  • More people: Michigan lost 120,401 people over the nine years prior to the right-to-work law and added 130,060 people in the nine years after.

A strong state: State revenue increased 15.3% after passing the right-to-work law, following a 17.9% decrease in state revenue the ten years prior.

In the U.S., from 2011-2020, right-to-work states have had:

  • Nearly 8% more employment growth.
  • Almost 10% percent more growth in manufacturing payroll employment.
  • Over 8% higher non-farm employment.
  • Higher disposable income considering the cost of living.
  • Increase in population by 867,104 people, who moved from forced unionization states between 2020 to 2021.

10 years ago we came together to protect the rights, interests, and integrity of all workers. In the new year, we need to come together again to maintain that protection and make sure our lawmakers don’t repeal the progress we’ve made for our state as a whole.

Contact your state legislator today and tell them to stand with Michigan’s current and future workers.

*Source: The Mackinac Center for Public Policy