Right to Work

In our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard against being fooled by false slogans, such as “right to work.” It is a law to rob us of our civil rights and job rights. Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining by which unions have improved wages and working conditions of everyone…Wherever these laws have been passed, wages are lower, job opportunities are fewer and there are no civil rights. We do not intend to let them do this to us. We demand this fraud be stopped.
—Martin Luther King, speaking about right-to-work laws in 1961

What does the “Freedom to Work” law mean to Michigan workers?
Michigan’s Freedom to Work law (“FTW”) makes it unlawful to require that an employee pay dues or service fees to a union as a condition of obtaining or continuing employment, invalidating union security clauses.

Was Michigan’s law passed in response to efforts by the state’s working people?

No. Wealthy individuals and several anti-union groups pushed to have these laws enacted. They were drafted by the Koch Brothers-sponsored American Legislative Exchange Council, which prepares legislative templates and encourages state officials to push them through. Michigan’s bills were hustled through the legislature in December 2012 and signed by Gov. Snyder in spite of his earlier commitments not to support the legislation. Michigan is now the 24th state to enact Freedom to Work laws.
Do RTW laws boost state economies by attracting business, creating jobs, increasing per capita income, or decreasing unemployment?*

No. Many studies have shown there is no relationship between RTW laws and these factors. Companies consider many aspects when they consider relocating, including access to infrastructure, available land, construction costs, and tax incentives—RTW has little if any impact on these decisions. Studies range in their estimates of the negative effects on workers’ incomes, from a $1500-$5330 average decline in annual wages with fewer or no job-related health and retirement benefits.

Does RTW/FTW affect collective bargaining agreements that were in place on March 28, 2013 when the law went into effect?
RTW/FTW only applies to contracts that take effect or are renewed or extended after March 28, 2013.

Does RTW/FTW prohibit unions? What about collective bargaining?
No. RTW/FTW does not prohibit unions or collective bargaining.

What does exclusive representative mean?
Once a union is recognized as the exclusive bargaining agent of an employee group, that union has the exclusive right and responsibility to represent all employees in the bargaining unit.
Am I subject to the terms and conditions of a collective bargaining agreement even if I choose not to be a member of the union?
Yes. As a member of the bargaining unit, you are subject to the terms and conditions of a collective bargaining agreement regardless of whether you join the union.

What is the difference between a bargaining unit member and a union member?
A bargaining unit is the grouping or classification of employees that the union represents as the exclusive bargaining representative. The collective bargaining agreement defines which positions or classifications are part of the bargaining unit. Union members are members of the bargaining unit who choose to join and/or support the union that is the exclusive bargaining representative. Under FTW, bargaining unit members cannot be required to become union members or financially support the union as a condition of obtaining or continuing employment. FTW does not allow employees to opt out of the bargaining unit.

What is a union security clause?
A union security clause is a provision in a collective bargaining agreement requiring that all members of the bargaining unit, as a condition of obtaining or continuing employment, either join or financially support the union. RTW laws invalidate union security clauses.
Do union dues or fees fund political candidates?
No. If unions wish to provide financial support for political candidates they must make it clear that any solicitations for this purpose are voluntary and then deposit those monies in a separate Political Action Committee (PAC).

Why should I continue to pay dues and be a union member?

Paying union dues can be considered as an investment in the future. Unions rely on the financial resources provided by members to fund efforts to protect those members. Fewer resources means less power and effectiveness in enforcing and negotiating beneficial contracts. Thus, saving the tiny percentage of salary that dues cost in the short-term can mean big losses later.

It has been argued that “The chief benefits of unionization appear to have less to do with getting faculty members more bread than in giving them some say over how it is sliced. Those who belong to collective-bargaining units have been found by researchers to have more say in the management of their institutions and how the faculty payroll is divvied up.” For the full article, see Leonardo Carrizo, “What Good Do Faculty Unions Do?” Chronicle of Higher Education, May 1, 2011. http://chronicle.com/article/What-Good-Do-Faculty-Unions/127333

When may I resign my union membership and/or stop paying dues or service fees?
That depends on many factors, including but not limited to whether you are subject to a bargaining agreement that was in effect on March 28, 2013, and what the terms and conditions of that agreement are. Additionally a membership agreement or “dues check-off ‘ authorization could affect when you are able to resign your union membership and/or stop paying dues or service fees. Often times these agreements are entered into shortly after an employee is hired and begins working. It is not uncommon for a membership agreement or “dues check­ off’ authorization to have a different expiration date than the bargaining agreement.

Does RTW affect existing health and safety, wage and hour laws or regulations?
No. RTW does not invalidate existing workplace health and safety laws or regulations.

*For more information:
• Benjamin Collins, “Right to Work Laws: Legislative Background and Empirical Research,” Congressional Research Service, Dec. 6, 2012.
• Gordon Lafer, “’Right to Work’: The Wrong Anser for Michigan’s Economy,” Economic Policy Institute Briefing Paper #326, Sept. 15, 2011.

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