Michigan enacts 'freedom to work' bill

[JURIST] The House of Representatives [official website] two bills on Tuesday, known as "Freedom to Work," that makes payment of union dues voluntary and limits workers' rights to strike and picket. The legislation was quickly signed into law [press release] by Michigan Governor Rick Synder [official website]. The bills address employees in both the public [HB 4003 materials] and private [SB 0116 materials] sectors. Pro-labor activists gathered at the State Capitol to protest [Reuters report] the legislation. In his statement, Synder said, "Workers deserve the right to decide for themselves whether union membership benefits them." He also noted that this legislation does not effect workplace health and safety regulations. With this legislation, Michigan has become to the twenty-fourth right to work state.

Attempts to limit collective bargaining rights and the influence of labor unions have been confronted with heavy opposition. In September the Michigan Supreme Court ordered [JURIST report] a union-backed measure to amend the state constitution to include a right to labor unionization and collective bargaining to appear on the November ballot. The measure was defeated 57-43 percent [AP report]. Wisconsin faced a challenge against its legislation which limited the collective bargaining rights of public employee unions. In March a judge for the US District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin [official website] ruled unconstitutional [JURIST report] certain provisions of the state's Budget Repair Bill [text, PDF] reasoning that unions which supported Governor Scott Walker [official website] during his election were apparently given preferential treatment. Last November Ohio voters rejected [JURIST report] a bill which would have impacted Ohio's 400,000 public workers by limiting their ability to strike and collectively bargain for health insurance and pensions.

 

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