Government workers can’t be forced into unions even after right-to-work repeal

Know your Janus rights: For Michigan teachers, police, firefighters & others, worker freedom is guaranteed

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is expected to sign legislation repealing Michigan’s right-to-work law, which has passed the House and Senate and now sits on her desk.

Tens of thousands of Michigan residents are unsure about their rights regarding union membership. If you are one of those workers, it’s important to know if keeping your job depends on your paying the union, or if you are exempt from this requirement.

Do not rely on your employer when it comes to knowing where you stand with respect to right-to-work.

The bad news is that many workers who had resigned their memberships under right-to-work will have to pay dues or agency fees, which are slightly lower. But there is also some good news you should know about and share with others.

There is a lot of confusion over which employees will be required to pay a union to keep their job and which are exempt.

Public Sector

One reason for the confusion is that Democrats in the Legislature introduced bills to repeal right-to-work for both private sector workers and public sector ones. There’s a hitch: Public sector workers still enjoy right-to-work protections. As a result, House Bill 4004, the legislation that calls for repealing right-to-work for government employees, was unconstitutional as introduced.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the 2018 case Janus v. ASFCME that public sector workers who choose not to join a union can not be required to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment. House Bill 4004, as first written, violated this ruling. It was not until the bill was on the floor that House Democrats amended it to comply with the ruling. The option to join or not join will not change for public employees.

Several former and current public-sector employees, when asked by Michigan Capitol Confidential, did not know that public employees’ status will not change after the signing of the bill. Any public employee who hears that union dues or agency fees are now required should ask the employer or a union representative to put that statement in writing.

If you are a public employee and your employer or a union representative says you must pay dues or fees, contact Michigan Capitol Confidential or the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. We will help you. You have First Amendment rights. These rights are nonnegotiable and can not be removed by any state law.

Private Sector

If a private sector employer is unionized or becomes unionized after you are already employed, you will have several options. You can decide to become a member of the union and pay full union dues. You can choose not to become a member and still pay full union dues. Or, you can decide not to be a union member, but you will still have to pay an agency fee. An agency fee typically ranges from 70% to 80% of the full dues payment.

The union agency fee is, by law, supposed to cover only the amount the union spends on collective bargaining, representing employees in grievance proceedings, and contract administration. Employees who opt out of the union typically do not want to pay for its political spending on issues or candidates.

Michigan is likely to be the first to repeal its right-to-work law through the legislature in almost 60 years. Indiana repealed its law in 1965 but reinstated it in 2012. Polling as far back as 2002 show that Michigan residents believe employees should have the right to decide whether to join a union or pay dues.

If you have questions or concerns over your union status due to the repeal, please contact us by email.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.