Three bills preserve workers’ freedoms, bring back prevailing wage

LANSING, Mich., March 8, 2023 — The Michigan House of Representatives passed critical legislation today to uplift working people across the state. House Bills 4004 and 4005 restore worker freedoms and re-establish union rights by eliminating the state’s so-called “right-to-work” laws. Since their adoption in 2012, these laws have siphoned resources away from unions, which impaired their ability to bargain effectively on behalf of their members. Workers in states with expanded workers’ rights make almost $9,000 more annually, a 15% difference according to 2020 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“House Democrats will always stand in solidarity with working families, and the bills that were passed today restore the power of Michigan workers, give them the freedom to expand their rights, and deliver on our promise to put Michigan workers first,” said state Rep. Regina Weiss (D-Oak Park), sponsor of HBs 4004 and 4005. “We are proud to stand with workers across our state and ensure that they have a seat at the bargaining table and their rights are restored.”

House Bill 4007 makes certain skilled workers are paid what they’re worth by reinstating the statewide prevailing wage law. The Legislature repealed the prevailing wage law in 2018 and claimed that it would save taxpayers money on public construction projects. No evidence of those savings ever materialized; in fact, studies have shown that construction projects where prevailing wage is paid are more likely to be completed on time and under budget.

“House Democrats promised we would restore prevailing wage, and we have kept our promise,” said state Rep. Brenda Carter (D-Pontiac), sponsor of HB 4007. “Michigan workers deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, and that starts by ensuring fair wages. We must ensure our hardworking residents receive pay that’s in line with the value of their skills and services. We must also offer competitive wages in order to attract and retain a highly trained workforce, because we do not want to see critical infrastructure projects built by contractors that cut corners.”

Earlier today, the House Labor Committee took testimony from people supporting and opposing the bills, including union workers. This is a stark contrast to 2012, when the Legislature adopted “right-to-work” bills without any hearings, keeping the bill language secret until the last possible moment. Democrats have been pushing for repeal ever since.

“We’ve known this day was coming since we woke up on Nov. 9 and realized we had achieved majority. Exactly 120 days ago, Michiganders chose new leadership in the Michigan Legislature, and today demonstrates they chose leaders who will stand up for workers,” said state Rep. Jim Haadsma (D-Battle Creek), chair of the House Labor Committee. “I am grateful our constituents trusted us to restore workers’ freedoms and re-establish union rights. And I am thankful to all the hardworking people and unions in Michigan that make this state strong and healthy.”