By Christopher R. Mikula and Eric C. Stuart © Ogletree Deakins

On March 24, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed legislation repealing Michigan’s right-to-work law for private-sector employees. The legislation had previously passed the Michigan House of Representatives on March 8 and the Michigan Senate on March 21. Both bills passed along party lines.

The new law will go into effect 91 days after the end of the current legislative session, which means March 30, 2024, will be the effective date. With the enactment of the law, Michigan became the first state to repeal its right-to-work law, leaving 26 states with right-to-work laws still on the books.

When the law takes effect next year, union security clauses—which require employees to pay union dues or a service fee to their bargaining representative as a condition of keeping their jobs—will once again be legal in private-sector collective bargaining agreements for the first time since 2012, when Michigan’s right-to-work law was passed.

The new law appropriates $1 million to the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity for responding to public inquiries, increasing staffing needed to implement the new law, and notifying employers, employees, and labor organizations about the changes. Under Michigan legislative rules, the appropriations spending shields the law from a ballot initiative to repeal it. Instead, a constitutional amendment or a court decision would be required to repeal the law.

In preparation for the repeal of the right-to-work law, Michigan employers with unionized workforces may want to review each collective bargaining agreement to determine if it contains a union security clause, or if the contract requires the parties to reopen negotiations and bargain upon repeal or invalidation of the right-to-work law.

Union security is a mandatory subject of bargaining under the National Labor Relations Act, and employers with collective bargaining agreements that do not contain union security provisions can expect unions to propose such provisions when their labor contracts expire.

It remains to be seen whether forced unionism will ultimately help or hinder the labor movement in Michigan. For example, employees may avail themselves of the right to move to financial core status, instead of becoming full dues-paying members, or decide to seek out employers that do not require their workforces to pay dues as a condition of employment.

Christopher R. Mikula is an attorney with Ogletree Deakins in Detriot. Eric C. Stuart is an attorney with Ogletree Deakins in Morristown, N.J. © 2023. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.