Pro-labor elected officials in Michigan restored workers’ right to collectively bargain and ensured workers are offered competitive wages, finally rewarding the efforts of union workers and allies. House Democrats voted on March 8 to repeal the state’s decade-old so-called “right-to-work” law in a 56-53, party-line vote; on March 14, Senate Democrats followed suit in a 20-17, party-line vote, sending the legislation to Governor Gretchen Whitmer to sign into law on March 24, 2023.
This victory was a long time coming for union members in the Great Lakes State. In 2012, the country watched as SMART members joined over 10,000 fellow union workers and their supporters at the State Capitol in Lansing to protest the Republican-led effort to make Michigan a right-to-work state. Unfortunately, those protests were unsuccessful. Under right-to-work, union membership in Michigan fell from 17.1% of the workforce in 2012 to 10.1% last year.
Michigan was one of 27 states with right-to-work laws. Right-to-work laws, championed by corporations and employers looking to pad their profits, were designed to weaken unions and decrease pay and benefits. Now – thanks in no small part to the votes of SMART members, which helped Democrats win the state house, senate and governor’s office – Michigan became the first state in nearly 60 years to repeal its right-to-work law.
Michigan Democrats also voted along party lines to restore the state’s prevailing wage law for publicly funded state construction projects. This guarantees that workers are paid fairly and ensures wages are reinvested in local communities, ultimately benefiting taxpayers. Republicans had previously repealed the state’s 50-year-old prevailing wage law in 2018.
“What is happening in Michigan offers an example of what’s possible when SMART members and voters across the state join together to elect pro-worker candidates,” said SMART General President Joseph Sellers. “After 10 years of anti-worker policy designed to weaken our ability to collectively bargain for better wages and workplace protections, this is a vital step in the right direction that was won by the tireless advocacy of union workers.”
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