On Tuesday, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed two bills heavily reducing the power of unions to collective bargaining for worker wages and benefits, and officially making Michigan a “right-to-work” state. The state House passed the bills early on Tuesday, and within hours Snyder signed the bills into law.
Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday evening, he said, “I have signed these bills into law … We are moving forward on the topic of workplace fairness and equality.”
The “right-to-work” policy has been under heavy criticism from Democrats in as much as it severely curtails the rights of unions to bargain on behalf of workers. Even on Monday, speaking at the Daimler Detroit Diesel plant, President Barak Obama had snubbed the policy saying, “The so-called ‘right-to-work’ laws – they don’t have to do with economics, they have everything to do with politics. What they’re really talking about is giving you the right to work for less money.”
The “right-to-work” laws prohibit unions from requiring every worker to pay them for bargaining on their behalf. The unions have criticized the laws by saying that they provide individual workers to opt out of supporting the unions, but allows them to still receive benefits of collective bargaining. In effect, it cuts off labor unions from their main sources of revenue, reduces their importance, and also puts individual workers at the mercy of big business, given worker unions becoming impotent or non-existent.
Though the question of Michigan becoming a “right to-work” state had been seen by some as improbable, given the history of automobile manufacturing in the state and the power of unions, the rejection of Proposal 2 in November emboldened Republicans. Proposal 2 was put to ballot by unions to include collective bargaining rights in the state constitution, but was rejected by voters.
Snyder indicated that the speed with which the bills making Michigan a “right-to-work” state were pushed through were partly due to labor leaders putting Proposal 2 to ballot. He said at the press conference, “I asked labor leaders not to move forward with a ballot proposal because I knew it could trigger a discussion that could lead to right to work being a divisive issue. Unfortunately they moved forward, it became divisive, and it was time to step up and take a leadership position, which I believe I’ve done, with good teamwork in the legislature.”