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House labor committee approves right-to-work repeal; full House to consider bill

Spring break deadline leads to rushed hearing, says committee chair Haadsma

The Legislature’s repeal of Michigan’s right-to-work law is being hurried through ahead of spring break, Rep. Jim Haadsma, D-Battle Creek, chair of the Michigan House Labor Committee, said Wednesday. Time is of the essence, Haadsma told a lawmaker who questioned why the majority in Lansing is pushing to pass the unpopular repeal effort before going on vacation. 

Rep. Tom Kunse, R-Clare, objected to what he described as the “rushed” nature of the hearing.

People called to testify were limited to three minutes each, with two minutes for questioning from two members. These constraints, he felt, did not allow the proper time for pushback.

“We don’t have to do this today,” Kunse said.

“We do need to accomplish this today,” Haadsma responded, “so we can get this accomplished by spring break.” 

After about 90 minutes of testimony, questions and the consideration of amendments, the House Labor Committee voted to approve House Bill 4005. 

Rep. Regina Weiss, D-Oak Park, was the first to testify. Weiss sponsored House Bill 4005 and another bill that would require public-sector workers to pay into unions. But the U.S. Supreme Court banned that practice in its 2018 Janus v. AFSCME ruling.

Read it for yourself: Michigan House Bill 4005 of 2023

Weiss noted that union membership in Michigan had dropped under right-to-work.

“Many people have unfortunately stopped paying their dues,” Weiss said.

Weiss argued that a majority of “people we talk to” support right-to-work repeal.

“I can get specific numbers,” Weiss said when pressed for data by Kunse.

While Weiss argued that right-to-work repeal would improve worker safety, the data tell the opposite story. In Michigan in 2013, the year right-to-work was enacted, the injury or illness rate per 10,000 workers was 99.5. In 2019 it was 75.2, per U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

Weiss later cited a Gallup poll result indicating 70% of Americans support unions. 

That, Kunse argued, is not the same as saying Americans support right-to-work repeal.

Despite those objections, the bill passed out of committee and will head to the full House. It could be voted on as early as Wednesday afternoon.

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.