The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Repealing Right-to-Work Law in Michigan

May 29, 2023

In March, the Michigan legislature passed, and the governor signed legislation to repeal the Right-to-Work law in Michigan. The so-called Right-to-Work law was originally passed in late 2012 during a lame-duck session when Republicans controlled the legislature and governorship in Michigan.

The repeal of the Right-to-Work law was hailed as a big victory for labor. It was one of the goals when the Democrats gained control of the government in Michigan in the 2022 election.

The Right-to-Work Law has been used as an attack on unions across the country for many years. In states with a Right-to-Work law, no one is required to be a union member even if they benefit from union protection and have the wages and benefits of a union contract. In states that do not have a Right-to-Work law, if the majority of workers at a specific workplace or company vote for a union, then everyone either must be a union member or pay union dues to support the services of the union.

But the repeal of the Right-to-Work law in Michigan only applies to private employers. Those who work for any type of government agency were not included. That is because of the United States Supreme Court decision in 2018 known as the Janus Decision. This decision basically forced all public employees across the country to be considered right-to-work—in other words, they can opt out of the union, not pay union dues, but still be covered by everything that the union negotiates. This exception for public employees is not a minor amount of people. Just the opposite. More public employees are unionized across this country than are employees at private companies. A lot more. The unionization rate for public employees across the country is over 30% while it is 6% for private employers.

Still, repealing Right-to-Work in Michigan is seen as a gain for workers because the law clearly was an attack on unions and workers in 2012. The Democrats are presenting themselves as the friends of workers for repealing it. But to have strong unions, workers need more, much more. If the Democrats were really the friends of labor, they could pass a law that makes a union the bargaining agent for an employer the minute a majority of workers sign union cards. Company bosses usually refuse to recognize what’s called the card-check process. They string out the unionization process for a long time. The bosses hold mandatory anti-union workplace meetings and threaten layoffs. They harass union supporters in the workplace, including firing some of them. Even if these firings are later overturned, sometimes it is too late, and the union drive gets defeated, even though a majority of workers signed cards for the union. But the Democrats do not pass the card-check laws that the unions have asked for to slow down the bosses’ anti-union interference and to make organizing a union easier.

At the end of the day, workers can only depend on their own activity and determination to fight for what they need—whether it is organizing a union or fighting for improved wages and benefits.