Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

A 'National Attack': Michigan Passes 'Right-to-Work' Law

Police in riot gear confront thousands as legislation seen as blow to collective bargaining power, middle class passes

Andrea Germanos

Republican Gov. Rick Snyder signed into law contentious "right-to-work" legislation on Tuesday after tear-gas wielding police and over ten thousand people protesting the attack on labor converged at the state Capitol and vowed that the day's action was just the beginning.

Snyder's signature makes the state the 24th to have a law dubbed by critics as "right-to-work for less." 

Among the thousands speaking out against the legislation Tuesday was United Auto Worker President Bob King, the Detroit Free Press reports:

"Unions built the middle class of America," he said. "This is a national attack. These folks want to shift more and more of the wealth to a smaller and smaller group of people."

Speaker after speaker, including firefighters, teachers and factory workers, vowed today’s protest was just the start. They said they would follow legislators all over the state to remind people of their votes.

* * *

* * *

State Rep. Brandon Dillon, who spoke out against the legislation on the House floor on Thursday, told Democracy Now! on Tuesday that Republicans are "pushing a law that is decisively anti-labor-union, anti-worker, and the only defense they can have is to come up with buzzwords like 'freedom to work' and 'pro-worker.'"

San Francisco State University professor John Logan dismantles the Republican worker "freedom" story at In These Times:

Snyder insists on stating that right-to-work laws give workers the “ultimate choice” on whether or not they join a union. Either through willful ignorance or deliberate misrepresentation, Snyder is professing to give employees a right that they already enjoy.

In fact, right-to-work laws simply outlaw agreements that provide for agency fees from non-members, thereby making it much more difficult for unions to maintain stable organizations. Unions are still required by law to negotiate on behalf of all the workers in the bargaining unit, even though under right-to-work, non-members don't pay for the representation they receive.

What right-to-work laws are really about, according to Rep. Dillon, is corporate profits.

This isn’t about freedom to choose, and they—they know that. They know from their own polling that the more people know about this proposal, the less they like it. What they don’t tell you is that nobody has been forced to join a labor union in Michigan. It’s illegal under federal law. And in fact, if this right to work — or as my colleagues and I like to refer to it as "freedom to freeload" — passes, those that choose not to join a union and not to pay dues will still be given all the benefits that a union contract entails and all the protections that union representation has. The proponents of this legislation will not tell you that. They will not tell you that unions will still be bound to represent those people who choose not to participate in the union.

And for a party that talks about personal responsibility all the time, it seems strangely ironic that they’re promoting this idea of freeloading, because really what it’s about is what Betsy DeVos and her husband have said all along: They don’t like the fact that Michigan workers enjoy a higher standard of living than other states; they did not like high wages; they don’t like the fact that unions have some place at the bargaining table to advocate for their employees; they want to weaken the hand of unions; they want to depress wages; and they want to make it an economy where a shrinking middle class means more corporate profits.

The Michigan bills have "bill mill" ALEC's fingerprints all over them, Brendan Fischer points out at PRWatch:



"This is a major day in Michigan's history," Gov. Snyder said during a news conference shortly after signing the legislation.  But if labor supporters like teacher Mike Ingels are right, the day also marks a major point in the fight against such anti-union efforts.

“This is not the end,” Ingels said. “This is the beginning.”

* * *

Mandi Wright of the Detroit Free Press has video of labor rights protesters in the Capitol Rotunda:

* * *

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Ousted by AOC, Joe Crowley Now Lobbying Against Tax Hikes on Corporate Giants

The former chair of the House Democratic Caucus once called the GOP's 2017 tax law a "scam," but now he's collaborating with Wall Street to undermine attempts at progressive reform.

Kenny Stancil ·

'Embarrassing': US Absent as World Joins Together to Protect Biodiversity

"It reinforces the notion that the U.S. is a fair-weather partner when it comes to environmental conservation, including issues of climate change," said one critic.

Kenny Stancil ·

'It Was Torture': African Asylum-Seekers Describe Restraint Agony on ICE 'Death Flights'

"In Cameroon, I had been beaten with a machete until my feet swelled and bled... But the day I was put in the WRAP by ICE, I wanted to die. I have never felt such horrible pain."

Brett Wilkins ·

Progressives to Biden: Ignore Panel Advice and Embrace Supreme Court Expansion

"The GOP's rigged bench is contorting our laws," said Sen. Ed Markey. "We need to pass legislation to expand the Supreme Court."

Jake Johnson ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.

Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo