Michigan Debating “Right To Work” Legislation?


Has the time come for Michigan, one of the wellsprings of the American labor movement, to join 22 states in which employees can’t be compelled to join unions or pay union dues?

You bet, argue a significant and influential number of state lawmakers — all Republicans.

Not a chance, counter minority Democrats.

Then there are others, including Gov. Rick Snyder, who are wary of the turmoil a right-to-work debate would ignite.

Their preference is to talk about something else.

Nonetheless, prospects for right-to-work legislation in Michigan — prohibiting arrangements under which employees pay union dues or agency fees as a condition of employment — are better than ever. Advocates such as state Rep. Mike Shirkey, R-Clark Lake, say they believe it is the single most important step state policy makers could take to spur job creation in a state with an 11.2% unemployment rate.

The state Senate could take up a bill as early as this week to end compulsory union membership for teachers. But Shirkey and his allies say it may be time to go for broke.

“If providing labor freedom to teachers is a good idea … why isn’t providing labor freedom to bus drivers and steelworkers just as good?” he asked.

State Rep. Mike Shirkey is an evangelist about making Michigan a right-to-work state.

Compulsory union membership is a millstone around the neck of the Michigan economy, he said in an interview at the Capitol last week.

Ending it — in a state so closely identified with the U.S. labor movement — would send a signal around the world that it’s time to do business in Michigan again, he says.

He even says he believes it would be good for unions.

“For unions to be successful, they need jobs,” said Shirkey, R-Clark Lake. “Clinging to the past is just self-destructive. This is about freedom and liberty. I want Michigan to be a labor freedom state.”

Shirkey, who owns a fabricating plant in Jackson with 70 non-union employees, hands out business cards to potential converts.

Read the full text of Dawson Bell’s Detroit Free Press article here.

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Posted on September 19, 2011, in HR Management & Leadership., Labor Relations and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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