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Right to work repeal could land on Whitmer’s desk this week

Thousands rally at the state capitol grounds in Lansing, Mich., on Tuesday. The crowd is protesting right-to-work legislation.
Carlos Osorio
Thousands rally at the state capitol grounds in Lansing, Mich., on Tuesday. The crowd is protesting right-to-work legislation.

Bills to repeal Michigan’s right-to-work law are poised to be sent this week to Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

The legislationto repeal the law is up for a Tuesday hearing before the Senate Labor Committee and is expected to be sent to the Senate floor. Repealing right to work is a top priority of the Legislature’s new Democratic majorities, and Whitmer said Monday, “I am going to sign a bill that restores workers’ rights.”

The right-to-work law allows workers to opt out of paying union dues in a unionized shop.

The bills were adopted last week by the state House. Democratic state RepresentativeSamantha Steckloff (D-Farmington Hills) said she is anxious to un-do Republican actions from almost a decade ago. The Democrats’ bill would not be subject to a voter referendum because it includes an appropriation. Under the Michigan Constitution, appropriations bills are referendum-proof.

Steckloff said that follows the pattern set by Republicans when they made Michigan a right-to-work state.

“You know, I think it’s because back in 2012, it was rammed through and it didn’t provide any opportunity because they put the appropriation on it,” she said. “So, honestly, we were just doing the same thing they did.”

The Republican bills in 2012 were swiftly adopted in a contentious session and signed by Republican GovernorRick Snyder, who had earlier declared repealing right to work “is not on my agenda.”

The repeal of right to work, as well as restoring a law that requires businesses to pay a region’s prevailing union contract is a near-certainty. But that won’t come without a fight.

Republicans and many business groups say that it will make Michigan less attractive to decision-makers.

Jimmy Greene is president of the Associated Builders and Contractors of Michigan, which represents non-union construction firms. He said the back-and-forth of labor laws in a state where political power can easily shift from election to election will make attracting employers more difficult.

“I think that’s going to put people on edge and say, you know, this is just – it’s an inconsistent state to do business in and not what you’d expect makes it an unattractive place to do business in,” he said. “Businesses like some kind of certainty.”

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Rick Pluta is the managing editor for the Michigan Public Radio Network.
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