GOP state Sen. John Proos has opened the right-to-work “can” that Gov. Rick Snyder said he would sign but would not push for as part of his agenda.
Proos, R-St. Joseph, introduced legislation Wednesday that would allow counties and municipalities in Michigan to create right-to-work zones. It is Senate Bill 120. Proos says the bill is on his agenda because the issue is “too important” to wait for Snyder to lead the way. In addition to its sponsor, the bill has eight Republican co-sponsors in the Senate — already nine of the 19 votes needed to pass the bill in that chamber, assuming that Republican Lt. Gov. Brian Calley would cast a tie-breaking vote.
State Rep. Marty Knollenberg, R-Troy, has also introduced a right-to-work zone bill in the Michigan House, and it has six co-sponsors — all Republicans. This bill would need the support of 49 other Republicans to be approved by the House.
With Republicans firmly in control of the state House and Senate and the governor’s office, Democrats would be unable to stop a right-to-work push if a large majority of the GOP politicians merely stayed on side and made it a priority to advance either bill into law.
While campaigning in September, Snyder’s campaign told one Michigan reporter that the issue was too divisive to be turned into a priority and that he didn’t support opening up “the right-to-work can.” But Snyder did not shut the door on the matter: During the GOP gubernatorial primary, he answered a direct question from Wendy Day of Common Sense in Government, saying that he would sign a right-to-work bill if it reached his desk.
Proos is optimistic.
“I don’t think this is a shot in the dark by any stretch of the imagination,” he said.
Right-to-work laws give employees the opportunity to decide for themselves whether to join or financially support a union. As of December, eight of the 11 states with the lowest unemployment rates in the country were right-to-work states. There are 22 right-to-work states.
Proos said his legislation would allow “pilot projects” across Michigan.
Michael LaFaive, director of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s Morey Fiscal Policy Initiative, said once counties reluctant to adopt right-to-work zones saw how successful the zones were, those counties would join in. He believes a right-to-work law in the state of Michigan would be even more valuable as an economic tool than eliminating the unpopular Michigan Business Tax and its surcharge.
Phillip Thompson, executive vice president of the SEIU Local 517 M which represents Michigan public employees, said they don’t support right-to-work.
"We are opposed to any of this type of legislation that simply becomes a subterfuge for limiting employees' rights to have a meaningful voice in their workplace," Thompson wrote in an e-mail.