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Gov Signs Right To Work, Prevailing Wage Bills

April 4, 2023

Article courtesy MIRS News for SBAM’s Lansing Watchdog e-newsletter

Michigan’s “Right to Work” law will be repealed and prevailing wage will be re-established under legislation Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed without any line-item vetoes.

The move – less than three months into her second term and her first with a Democratic-controlled legislature – is a major victory for organized labor, which suffered a crushing morale defeat in 2012 when Right to Work passed and in 2018 when prevailing wage was repealed.

“After decades of anti-worker attacks on working people, it’s a new day in Michigan, and the future is bright,” said Michigan AFL-CIO President Ron Bieber.

By signing SB 34, private sector workers in union shops can be compelled to join a union or pay the bargaining unit a fee to cover the costs of negotiating contracts starting 90 days after the legislature adjourns for the session, which could happen this fall.

Functionally, the signing of HB 4004 has no immediate impact. If the U.S. Supreme Court’s Janus decision is overturned, public sector workers also could be compelled to join a union or pay fees connected with bargaining costs.

Finally, HB 4007 would reinstate the requirement that public school and state construction projects must come with a wage and benefit package that is not less than the wages and benefits offered to workers on similar jobs in the same general geographic location. Like SB 34, that bill will not take effect until 90 days after the legislature adjourns for the year.

“Today, we are coming together to restore workers’ rights, protect Michiganders on the job, and grow Michigan’s middle class,” Whitmer said in a press release.

Since Whitmer did not break out her line-item veto pen, all three bills are not subject to a public referendum because they all spend some amount of state money for educational purposes.

Whitmer had signed an executive order in 2019 in which she vowed not to sign a policy bill with an appropriation to make sure the people’s voice of referendum wasn’t taken away.

Signals have been sent, however, from the business community in West Michigan that there’s interest in circulating petitions to put Right to Work in front of voters as a constitutional amendment.

Neither bill was signed at a public ceremony. Former Republican House Speaker Jase Bolger, who pushed for Right to Work in 2012, noticed.

“If Right to Work repeal and prevailing wage reinstatement are such popular issues, why did Whitmer sign them without a ceremony and announce by press release in a Friday afternoon news dump?” Bolger asked rhetorically.

The package was passed through the House on Tuesday with a new version of the prevailing wage restoration that included significantly stricter enforcement language.

The House and Senate passed the bills along partisan lines.

The signing was criticized by the Detroit Regional Chamber President and CEO Sandy K. Baruah, who said it weakens Michigan’s global economic competitive position and the Mackinac Center for Public Policy President Joseph G. Lehman, who called it a “massive, unforced error.”

The National Right to Work Committee President Mark Mix took it a step further by saying “This is a dreadful day in Michigan’s history as union-label legislators have once again exposed the state’s private sector workers to the risk of being fired for refusal to financially support an unwanted union.”

AFSCME Council 25 President Lawrence Roehrig snatched away some buzzwords from the pro-business community in his statement, saying, “By repealing right to work and creating a prevailing wage, Michigan workers can blaze the pathways for worker freedom.”

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