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.   

Over 10,000 union workers rallied against so-called right-to-work in Lansing, Michigan in 2012

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 Republicans had previously repealed the state’s 50-year-old prevailing wage law in 2018.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.”  

Watch Local 80 Business Manager Tim Mulligan discuss the repeal of “right-to-work” on SMART News.

SMART released the latest episode of SMART News on Tuesday, May 2. Episode eight features videos on organized labor’s success repealing so-called right-to-work in Michigan; SMART Heroes reaching the 500th graduate milestone; victories against wage theft in Virginia and Washington; SMART-TD’s rail safety efforts in the U.S. Senate; SMART members’ retirement security; and much more.

Watch individual videos from this episode:

SMART Local 80 Business Manager Tim Mulligan detailed the “travesty” of Michigan Republicans passing right-to-work legislation and taking prevailing wage away from union members in the Wolverine State; he also explained how organized labor worked with pro-worker elected officials to restore full collective bargaining power and prevailing wage in March of this year.

“Local 80, 7, 292 and actually our Transportation Division, we came together as one to get rid of right-to-work,” Mulligan told SMART News. “The repeal of right-to-work and the reinstatement of prevailing wage is so important for Michigan as a state.”

Later in the episode, International Training Institute Administrator Michael Harris and SMART Heroes graduates Kevin Moore and Sean Thompson spoke about the impact that SMART Heroes has had on their lives – as well as the other 500 military servicemembers and recent veterans the program has graduated over the last five years.

“I was honestly a little bit shocked at the level of camaraderie and brotherhood [in the union], that mimicked what I had in the [service],” said U.S. Army veteran Moore.

In other segments, SMART locals detailed recent victories on behalf of workers harmed by wage theft and worker misclassification; SMART-TD Ohio State Legislative Director Clyde Whitaker testified for rail safety in front of the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee; Local 24 members highlighted enormous megaprojects and job opportunities in central Ohio; and members in Maryland and Canada talked about their work serving their neighbors during the SMART Army’s month of community action in April.

Finally, SMART General President Joseph Sellers reflected on the progress our union has made on pension strength and security, progressing from the red zone, to the yellow zone, and finally to the green zone in January of last year.

“I wasn’t quite sure that I, during my working career, would have the opportunity to see a green zone National Pension Fund,” Sellers said in his interview with SMART News. “That was a really good process for us.”

Watch all episode eight segments here.

In a win for labor, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed House Bill 85 into law, prohibiting counties and other local entities from enacting their own right-to-work laws.
Sponsored by Democratic Reps. Daymon Ely and Andrea Romero, the bill-turned-law invalidates right-to-work resolutions passed in 10 counties and one village.
“The passage of HB 85 Union Security Agreements is a victory for all working families in New Mexico,” the New Mexico Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO said in a press release. “Deceptive and divisive ‘right to work’ laws have no place in our state.
“With HB 85 now signed into law, we hope county and municipal officials will focus on actually creating good jobs, promoting healthy communities, and making our state a better place to live for all working families.”
Click here to read more about the law from NM Political Report.

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. — The results of Tuesday’s elections, while not the absolute best-case scenario for labor, indicated that voters might be ready to end the one-party majority in the federal government in three months’ time, said SMART Transportation Division National Legislative Director John Risch at the opening session of the last day of the 2018 Regional Meeting at the Hilton Diplomat Resort.
A special election campaign in Ohio saw both President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence appear in support of Troy Balderson, who was running to finish out the remaining months of a term in Ohio’s 12th Congressional District. The seat was left vacated by fellow-Republican Pat Tiberia.
Yet even with the top two Republicans in the nation trying to give Balderson some momentum, he defeated Danny O’Connor, a relatively unknown Democrat, by 1 percent, according to unofficial results Tuesday. The 12th District, which includes Ohio’s capital Columbus, was carried by Trump by more than 11 points in the 2016 presidential election, according to The Associated Press.
Balderson and O’Connor will square off again in November for a full term to represent the district in Congress, and the result could be different with such a narrow margin.
Missouri’s special election Tuesday brought better news for labor, in what has been “a solidly red” state, Risch said.
Proposition A, a labor-led referral effort to repeal right-to-work legislation, was successful with 67 percent of voters voting to repeal a right-to-work law in place. Thirty-three percent of voters voted to keep the law, according to unofficial results. Labor faced much opposition with the Koch brothers leading an underground deceptive ‘yes vote’ effort that would have kept the right-to-work law in place. Missouri would’ve been the 28th state with such legislation in place had the referral not been successful.
“Even with all the deceptiveness, even with all the ways in which they tried to tilt the playing field in their favor – all of that, we won in Missouri,” Risch said.
He said a majority of voters in Missouri understood and recognized that Proposition A’s backers were trying to undermine the ability of unions to get better wages, fringe benefits and improve safety through deceptive direct mailings and other tactics.
“When they understand this, they vote the right way,” Risch said. “They vote for themselves, they vote for their unions, they vote for the ability to do something in the workplace.”
Risch feels that this victory, as well as victories by teachers in West Virginia, Arizona and Colorado this year, could signal a turning point for workers in the fight against income inequality.
“I see a trend, I see a movement across this country,” he said. “I think the tide is turning. I hope the tide is turning because we can’t go the other direction much longer.”

SMART Transportation Division National Legislative Director John Risch addresses attendees Wednesday at the opening session of the final day of the Hollywood, Fla., Regional Meeting.
SMART Transportation Division National Legislative Director John Risch addresses attendees Wednesday, Aug. 8 at the opening session of the final day of the Hollywood, Fla., Regional Meeting.

Stuart Gardner, SMART TD Ohio State Legislative Director

Ralph Leichliter, SMART TD Ohio Assistant State Legislative Director

The SMART TD Ohio State Legislative Board’s Director Stuart Gardner and Assistant Director Ralph Leichliter went on The Union Edge: Labor’s Talk Radio to explain to listeners why Right-to-Work is Wrong not just for Ohioans, but for all working families.
Click here to listen to a podcast of the interview.
If you live in Ohio, click here for the Ohio State Legislative Board’s website.
Click here to tell your representatives that Right-to-Work is Wrong via our Legislative Action Center.

In a close vote, the New Hampshire State Senate voted 12-11 to pass right-to-work (for less) in January. The bill then went to the Republican-controlled House for a vote and was expected to pass. The bill surprisingly failed in the House 200-177, with 32 Republicans voting against the measure.
The State House went even further and voted to indefinitely postpone consideration of right-to-work. This means that the N.H. House cannot vote on another right-to-work bill for the next two years. N.H. Governor Chris Sununu (R) was expected to sign the bill into law if it passed in the House.
Click here to read more from OneNewsNow.
According to the AFL-CIO, states that have enacted these so-called right-to-work laws have lower wages and incomes (about $6,000 less per year); little or no health insurance coverage and pay higher premiums; higher poverty rates; higher workplace fatality rates by 49 percent; and lower investments in education. These laws not only hurt unions, but the members who depend on the union as well.
Click here to go to the SMART TD Legislative Action Center (LAC) to contact your state or federal representatives and voice your opposition of right-to-work laws – and also, to voice your support of H.R. 233: two-person crews on all trains.

Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich explains why “Right-to-Work” legislation is wrong for working families.

Tire builder Jesse Isbell outlines in his recent blog post how the Right-to-Work bill is nothing more than a pack of lies intended to break unions and make the rich richer.
Isbell and thousands of his co-workers lost their jobs when the Oklahoma City Bridgestone Tire plant that was the core of an entire community, closed – a casualty of the passage of Right to Work legislation in his home state of Oklahoma.
Read how the so-called Right-to-Work measure devastates working families across our country and has a detrimental economic impact on everyone – union or not, from, here.

Members in Missouri & New Hampshire: Call your State House Representatives!

The state of Missouri recently passed a right-to-work (for less) bill in the State Senate, 21-12. A similar bill is expected to pass in the state’s House as well. If the bill passes in the State House, Mo. Governor Eric Greitens (R) has pledged to sign the bill into law.
If you live in Missouri, now is the time to contact your legislators and tell them that you don’t want Missouri to become a right-to-work (for less) state. Click here to find your Representative and their contact information.
In a much closer vote, the New Hampshire State Senate voted 12-11 to pass right-to-work (for less). The bill now heads to the Republican-controlled House for a vote. N.H. Governor Chris Sununu (R) has indicated that he will sign the bill into law if it passes in the State House.
Members from New Hampshire: click here to find your Representatives and their contact information.
According to the AFL-CIO, states that have enacted these so-called right-to-work laws have lower wages and incomes (about $6,000 less per year); little or no health insurance coverage and pay higher premiums; higher poverty rates; higher workplace fatality rates by 49 percent; and lower investments in education. These laws not only hurt unions, but the members who depend on the union as well.
Call your legislators today and tell them that you don’t want right-to-work (for less) in your state!

According to an article published by The Hill, Republicans are planning a renewed attack on the political power held by unions via the passing of right-to-work and other unfavorable laws. This comes in the wake of the GOP victories across the country in November giving Republicans a majority in both the House and Senate and in some key state governments.
Read more from The Hill.