LANSING, Mich., March 8, 2023 — Today, the Michigan Legislative Labor Caucus celebrated the long-awaited passage of bills that restore worker freedoms by repealing the state’s so-called “right-to-work” (RTW) law and guaranteeing higher wages for construction workers by reinstating prevailing wage.
Enacted in 2012, Michigan’s anti-worker “right-to-work” law prohibited labor contracts that required union dues or fees, and was heavily opposed by unions since its implementation. House Bills 4004 and 4005, sponsored by state Rep. Regina Weiss (D-Oak Park), repeals “right-to-work” language in Michigan’s Public Employee Relations Act and Labor Mediation Act, and once again allows labor organizations to require agency fees for their legal and bargaining services.
“Union members have been asking for a repeal of this anti-worker legislation since it was passed during lame-duck session in 2012,” said Weiss, who also serves as the House Chair of the Labor Caucus. “Our state thrives when we empower our workers, and I am grateful to all of my Labor Caucus colleagues for delivering on our promise to working families by restoring the freedom to bargain for better wages, benefits, and safe working conditions.”
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Michigan is one of 27 states with a RTW law that gives workers a choice to pay union membership dues or fees. Workers in these states don’t have to pay dues, but the union is still obligated to represent them, which ends up depleting the union resources needed to help take care of workers. Such laws have also had a negative economic impact, since workers don’t make as much money and have less to spend. In contrast, workers in free-bargaining states earn an average of $1,500 more per year and have increased health care benefits and more union memberships.
“With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Michigan learned that collective bargaining makes a tremendous difference in protecting workers. Protecting their jobs, their benefits, and providing safe working conditions,” said state Sen. Rosemary Bayer (D-West Bloomfield), Labor Caucus Senate Vice Chair. “It’s tremendously exciting to have the privilege to help strengthen collective bargaining here in Michigan, and to advocate for our working families across the state!”
House Bill 4007 requires the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity to set prevailing wage rates and fringe benefits for skilled-trades people working on state building projects.
“This legislation is good for workers, good for communities and good for Michigan. I am proud of the work we’ve done to make this happen and pass legislation to restore prevailing wage in the House,” said state Rep. Brenda Carter (D-Pontiac), House Vice Chair of the Labor Caucus and sponsor of HB 4007. “House Democrats promised that we would put workers first, and we have delivered on that promise. Michigan workers deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, and that starts by ensuring fair wages. We must ensure our hardworking residents receive wages in line with the value of their skills and services. We must offer competitive wages in order to attract and retain a highly trained workforce.”
According to research by the Economic Policy Institute, there is no evidence that the 2018 repeal of prevailing wage reduced public construction costs or benefitted taxpayers. The data showed that states without prevailing wage laws negatively affected construction workers, businesses and communities, and yielded slower job and benefits growth for workers, who had to rely more on food stamps as a result.
“Michigan workers are hardworking people who deserve stability, good-paying jobs and a voice at the bargaining table,” added state Rep. Joey Andrews (D-St. Joseph), Secretary of the Labor Caucus. “This legislation gives unions the resources they need and deserve, and workers the chance to land good-paying jobs that will help them pay the bills, feed their families and afford the increased costs of living.”
“Union representation is fundamentally about one thing: giving workers a voice in the workplace. Through negotiation, unions give workers the freedom to determine the conditions of their employment including hours, wages, safety and benefits,” state Sen. John Cherry (D-Flint), Labor Caucus Treasurer, said. “Workers deserve to have a voice in the workplace and this package to restore Michigan worker rights helps accomplish that.”
“Today, our pro-worker Democratic majority in the state House took historic action to undo the devastation caused by decades of attacks on workers’ freedom,” said Michigan AFL-CIO President Ron Bieber. “Since 2012, thousands of Michigan workers, labor leaders, and organizers across the state have been mobilizing and laying the groundwork for this moment. We applaud the House’s swift action to undo the damage caused by Betsy DeVos, John Engler, Rick Snyder and their worker suppression agendas. We know the Senate will quickly follow suit in order to get these bills to Governor Whitmer’s desk as soon as possible. Today, our legislative leaders are delivering on the promises they made and putting power back into the hands of Michigan workers.”