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Anti-Union legislation introduced in Michigan

January 19, 2011

Last week members of the State Representative Commerce Committee introduced legislation that could make Michigan a “Right to Work” state. But don’t let the language fool you. Right to Work is just code for anti-union.

On January 13th, House Bill 4054 was introduced by Representatives Knollenberg, Jacobsen, MacMaster, McMillin, Lund, Genetski and LaFontaine. The bill is designed to change legislation that has been in place since 1939 when Michigan adopted labor laws reacting to the demands of working people who were fighting for better legal protections against employers.

This new legislation would undermine even further the protections that working class people have and is designed as a clear attack against organized labor. There are currently 22 states in the country that have right to work laws.

However, this proposed legislation should not come as a surprise, particularly to people in West Michigan. The local business elite, through the West Michigan Regional Policy Forum have made making Michigan a “Right to Work” state one of their top priorities at both of the last gatherings here in Grand Rapids. At last year’s forum they even invited anti-labor activist Rick Berman to conduct a workshop on how to an anti-union/right to work campaign.

So far there has been little news coverage concerning this legislation and the larger unions in the state have done little in response besides create education flyers for distribution. (Like the 2 flyers you can download from this posting.)

There is no timeline for when HR 4054 will be voted on, but people can follow this issue by going to the Michigan legislative page for updates. If we hear about any organized efforts to fight this legislation we will post that information in the future.


15 Comments leave one →
  1. Sam permalink
    January 19, 2011 2:07 pm

    I hope we can organize workers to come together to protest this legislation

  2. Kate Wheeler permalink
    January 19, 2011 6:38 pm

    With the changes to the legislature and the governorship in 2010, this move was inevitable. It’s one more way that the capitalists remove any kind of balancing measure that allows workers to protect their rights and have a voice. The same people who made laws allowing the utilities to charge us for increases that have not yet been approved will do everything in their power to make this happen, too.

    I like “Right to Work for Less.” That’s a great, pithy explanation of what these types of laws really mean.

  3. A.C. Rose permalink
    January 19, 2011 8:25 pm

    Now that you have piqued our curiosity about this legislation, could you please (for those of us who are ignorant of Michigan state legislation and politics) how the Right to Work law is equivalent to anti-Union positions? Are you saying that the Right to Work legislation would make it legal for employers to pay employees less than minimum wage? Are you saying that the legislation encourages some workers to become willing to work for less than minimum wage? And what Unions are you referring you? Do labor unions in Michigan actively campaign against the proposed Right to Work legislation? And what does it mean for an individual to have a right to work? Does it mean that any individual can demand a job? Does it mean that an individual can call up an employer and offer their labor for a cut rate? What does it mean?

  4. Roger Becan permalink
    January 19, 2011 10:52 pm

    Any legislation that uproots the cancer that has been the unions, needs to be fast-tracked and implemented quickly.

    Only then can those corrupt anti-capitalist pigs be removed to the ash heap of history along with the other Communist/Marxist-leaning groups, and fair employment and competition can again flourish.

    The only people that still hang onto those rotten organizations are people that wouldn’t stand a chance in a system where merit ruled.

  5. Joe Spaulding permalink
    January 19, 2011 11:49 pm

    Do you mean competition like before the Sherman Anti-Trust Act? Do you mean fair employment like before the Civil Rights Act of 1964, child labor and workplace safety laws? All of these were labeled “Communist” and “Marxist” when they passed, yet all of them drastically decreased the problems you stated (unfair employment and lack of competition). Unions are the one hope of protection the working class has against corrupt management that are systematically rewarded for finding new ways to take economic advantage of workers. Too many people, through no fault of their own, face the choice between starving to death, turning to crime, or having a CEO or owner exploit the value their labor adds to the economy by overworking and underpaying them. It is not malignant or porcine to demand the over-fed stop fueling their gluttony on the lives of the poor.

  6. Kate Wheeler permalink
    January 20, 2011 12:35 am

    Right to work is a loophole created under Section 14(b) of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). It allows a state to enact a law prohibiting union security clauses in union contracts. It was put into place as part of the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act, a major anti-worker overhaul of Federal labor law pushed through by the 80th Congress, which overrode Harry Truman’s veto of it.

    “Right to work” is a catch-phrase; these laws don’t do anything to guarantee a worker’s right to work, especially not in Michigan, which has at-will employment laws. Right-to-work advocates claim that unions keep people from getting jobs by forcing them to join unions and pay dues, but in fact a federal law prohibits closed union shops, so that propaganda is false.

    What right-to-work does do is strike down union protections of wages and benefits, as described in this passage from the Website “Wrong for Michigan”: “Workers in Right to Work states earn on average $6,590 less than workers in free-bargaining states. That’s the equivalent to a 17% pay cut! On average, Right to Work states have a 16% higher poverty rate and job fatality rates are also 54% higher. The average employee in a free bargaining state is 24.1% more likely to have health insurance than a worker in a Right-to-Work state. These statistics are staggering and we cannot afford to be fooled by a false slogan that is being forced on us by outside special interests. The University of Michigan Institute for Labor and Industrial Relations calls Right to Work “a veiled assault on wage-earners.”

    As the above quote states, employers in states with right-to-work laws consistently offer lower wages for the same type of work, and are less likely to offer benefits to workers. Comparing North Carolina (a right to work state) and Missouri, two states with similar populations–Missouri workers receive an average pay of about $4,600 a year more than North Carolina workers, and Missouri workers are 28 percent more likely to have employer-provided health care than North Carolinians. That’s what happens when union protections are taken away. “Right to work” benefits business owners, not workers.

    I’m surprised you haven’t heard about right-to-work. It’s been a labor issue for years. Martin Luther King spoke out against it, calling it a “false slogan,” and saying, “It provides no rights..its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining. We demand this fraud be stopped.”

    There are plenty of resources online about it, pro and con, that you can check out for yourself. The ultra-conservative Mackinac Center is pro-right-to-work, and you can review arguments on its website for information on that side of the debate. The IWW has a great primer on its site about the benefits of union shops at These protections would be undermined by right-to-work. At AFT Michigan, you can go to this link: to read presentations describing right-to-work disadvantages. The flyer has a good synopsis of points.

    All of the unions, in Michigan and elsewhere, are vocally against these laws.

  7. Doug Burkholder permalink
    January 20, 2011 1:40 am

    I guess I can,t see why they would spend much effort in blocking unions in Mi ,being they have done such a bad job in helping workers or keeping work in this state anyway . What % of the labor force in Mi is union verse’s % of non-union labor force . We have no rights as workers in this state union or non-union.

  8. A.C. Rose permalink
    January 20, 2011 1:51 am

    Since this site is about “information democracy,” can you just answer the questions I asked? Isn’t that the minimal responsibility of the information generators?

  9. January 20, 2011 1:56 pm

    Anna, I believe Kate’s response above addresses your questions.

  10. gypsy traveler permalink
    January 20, 2011 2:24 pm

    Why not refer to the commenter above by the name they used online “A.C. Rose”? It’s pretty rude to call them a name that isn’t what they used.

    I’ve seen people on GRIID do this a few times recently and/or express that they wish people would use their “real names” in the comments (here or on However, not everyone has the privilege to use their name online for any number of different reasons.

  11. Kate Wheeler permalink
    January 20, 2011 3:39 pm

    Gypsy, I once made the comment about wishing someone would use his/her real name because there are a couple of commenters who constantly shift names and play a kind of bait-and-switch game with them–for example, pretending to be two people when it’s actually one person using two different names. However, the person I addressed the remark to was not that commenter, so I was mistaken in saying that. I won’t do it again.

    When someone uses their real name, however, I don’t see a problem in using it in a reply, but that’s just my opinion.

  12. Roger Becan permalink
    January 20, 2011 7:21 pm

    “…Right-to-work advocates claim that unions keep people from getting jobs by forcing them to join unions and pay dues, but in fact a federal law prohibits closed union shops, so that propaganda is false.”

    “Sacramento, CA (December 20, 2010) – A Sutter Roseville Medical Center healthcare professional has filed federal labor charges against a local union for coercing her and her colleagues into paying forced union dues.

    With free legal aid from National Right to Work Foundation attorneys, Mary Massen filed the unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board regional office in San Francisco.

    Because California does not have Right to Work protections for its workers, Massen, who elects to refrain from formal union membership, is still forced to pay union fees as a condition of employment. However, because of a National Right to Work Foundation-won Supreme Court precedent in Communication Workers v. Beck, she cannot be compelled to pay the portion of union dues used for the union’s political, lobbying, and member-only activities. Union officials are also legally obligated to inform workers of these rights and to provide workers with an independently verified audit of chargeable and non-chargeable expenses.

    Service Employees International Union (SEIU) United Healthcare Workers – West union officials refuse to provide the Center’s nonmember employees with the disclosure Beck requires. SEIU United Healthcare union officials also require the workers to annually object, a tactic designed to force workers into paying full union dues. Foundation attorneys defeated the annual objection requirement of another union before the NLRB earlier this year.

    Additionally, this union requires employees who choose not to join the union to provide their social security numbers to refrain from supporting the union officials’ non-bargaining expenses, further discouraging workers from exercising their rights.”

    This is reason alone why Right to Work should be the rule everywhere.

    Unions inflate wages and pile billions of dollars in costs to not only private businesses, but also cities and states, many of which are close to bankruptcy because of the healthcare and pension costs they have to payout.

    Just because Union member make more money does not mean that all is golden. Just ask the people that work at the GM stamping plant….Oh yeah, GM sold that off because they went under in part because of all the money they owed UAW workers.

    But they had George W., and Obama handy to bail them out.

    Unions do little more than bankrupt employers and insulate overpaid employees that are getting far too much for what they do. They just dont see it until the place they work for closes their doors, and then they wonder why they cant find a job.

  13. January 20, 2011 8:31 pm

    I lived in a right to work state for a while. The housing prices there were about the same as grand rapids, but the wages were way below west michigan wages.I strongly oppose the right to slavery legislation the Michigan legislature is proposing.

    The scabs who cross the picket line or refuse to join the union never turn down the increase in wages the union wins for them.

    Walmart is a nonunion store, and in Ohio the have the most employees in the state that collect food stamps. You the taxpayer is paying for Walmarts exploitation.

  14. January 20, 2011 8:33 pm

    oops should say “in Ohio they have”

  15. Mark permalink
    February 21, 2011 12:28 am

    People have forgotten the hard-fought lessons of the past. They have let the lies of business interests take hold and infest our workplace. Apparently we have very short memories, and are gullible to anti-Union propaganda.

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