Advocate Warns About Consequences of Repealing Michigan’s Right-to-Work Law

by Brett Rowland and Tom Gantert


Advocates for the right-to-work law in Michigan warn that repealing the law that has been in effect since 2013 would hurt the state economy.

For the first time since 1984, Democrats hold a trifecta in the Michigan state legislature with control of the House and Senate and the governor’s office. Democrats have talked about repealing the right-to-work law since it was passed in 2012.

“While the Janus decision means public sector workers nationwide have Right to Work protections, repealing Michigan’s Right to Work law would give union bosses the power to force Michigan’s private sector workers to pay money to a union or else be fired,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right To Work Committee. “That would mean, for example, auto workers could be fired solely for choosing not to fund the UAW union that has been engulfed in a massive corruption scandal that has sent numerous top union officials to jail for misusing workers’ money. Stripping workers of that choice is just plain wrong.”

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2018 in the Janus decision that the Constitution prohibits requiring public sector non-members pay agency fees to unions.

“Further, repeal of Right to Work would have devastating consequences for Michigan’s economy. For example, in roughly the past decade since Right to Work’s passage, Michigan saw its manufacturing jobs expand by 16% while non-Right to Work states on average faced a decline of 0.5%,” Mix said. “So not only would hundreds of thousands of workers lose the freedom to decide for themselves whether or not a union deserves their hard-earned money, but Michigan’s ability to create work opportunities would also be undermined without Right to Work.”

Critics of the right-to-work law have deemed it the “right-to-work for less” law.

In 2019, the Michigan House Democrats introduced two bills to repeal right-to-work but they got no traction because the Republicans controlled the House and Senate.

That 2019 Democratic news release cited a 2015 study from the Economic Policy Institute that found that wages in right-to-work states were 3.2 percent lower on average than wages in non-right-to-work states.

Michigan’s per-capita income has increased since right-to-work was passed in December 2012. The state’s per-capita income increased from $39,266 in 2012 or $47,680 in 2021 dollars when adjusted for inflation to $56,494 in 2021.

The Michigan House Democrats did not respond to an email seeking comment.

Don Grimes, a University of Michigan economist, said he wasn’t sure right-to-work had much of an impact on the state’s economy.

“With respect to right-to-work status I am not sure changing it would make much difference,” Grimes said in an email to The Center Square. “I am sure the people making the site selection decisions knew that right-to-work status could change with the political winds and if you were making long-term investment decisions you were not going to count on that status remaining indefinitely. That may be why there was no readily apparent benefit from having become a right-to-work state in terms of job growth.”

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Brett Rowland is an award-winning journalist who has worked as an editor and reporter in newsrooms in Illinois and Wisconsin. He is an investigative reporter for The Center Square.

Tom Gantert worked at many daily newspapers including the Ann Arbor News, Lansing State Journal and USA Today. Gantert was the managing editor of Michigan Capitol Confidential for five years before joining The Center Square.
Photo “Donald Grimes” by University of Michigan. Photo “Mark Mix” by National Right to Work Committee. Background Photo “Michigan State Capitol” by San906. CC0 1.0.


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