by Scott McClallen
The Democrat-dominated Michigan Senate voted to repeal right-to-work and to reinstate the prevailing wage.
The House passed bills to repeal right-to-work last week.
If signed into law, the first bill would affect about 9% of Michigan workers. Right-to-work was implemented during a lame-duck session in 2012 under former Republican Gov. Rick Synder and a Republican majority.
In short, the 2012 law says that nobody can be required to pay dues or fees to a union to hold a job.
“The ability to speak up together with one voice for better pay and benefits and safer workplace conditions is a right that workers deserve,” Senate Majority Leader Winnie Brinks, D-Grand Rapids, said in a statement. “By repealing anti-worker laws, we’re making our state a place where people want to come, work hard, and build a life knowing that they will be respected and able to earn a good living. It’s a new era in Lansing and we are taking this historic opportunity to restore workers’ freedom.”
Senate Bill 34, sponsored by Sen. Darrin Camilleri, D-Trenton, aims to allow unions to require workers to pay dues to a labor organization as a condition of obtaining or continuing employment and allow collective bargaining that requires all employees in the bargaining unit to financially support of the labor organization.
The bill would also allocate $1 million to the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity.
If Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signs the bills into law, Michigan will be the first state to repeal right-to-work laws and restore collective bargaining rights since 1958. Whitmer will also break her 2018 campaign promise to veto all referendum-proof legislation, meaning that an allocated dollar amount blocks voters from approving or rejecting laws enacted by the Legislature, known as a referendum.
Democrats cited a paper from The National Bureau of Economic Research reporting that right-to-work laws are associated with lower wages and lower unionization rates. They say workers in states without right-to-work laws make $11,747 more annually.
The Senate also passed Senate Bill 6, sponsored by Sen. Veronica Klinefelt, D-Eastpointe, which would restore the state’s prevailing wage law, requiring Michigan to pay wages that must equal or exceed local union rates.
Sen. Rick Outman, R-Six Lakes, opposed the bills.
“One of our most important obligations as lawmakers is the responsible use of taxpayer dollars,” Outman said in a statement. “The cost of a construction project being increased by 10 to 15% based solely on the fact that public employees work in the building is both senseless and wasteful. Prevailing wage unnecessarily inflates costs and takes funding away from schools and higher education institutions, and most importantly: Michigan taxpayers.”
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Scott McClallen is a staff writer covering Michigan and Minnesota for The Center Square. A graduate of Hillsdale College, his work has appeared on Forbes.com and FEE.org. Previously, he worked as a financial analyst at Pepsi.