by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Editors at National Review Online decry an attack on a Midwestern state’s right-to-work status.
In 2022’s midterm elections, Michigan Democrats surprised political handicappers when they captured both chambers of the state legislature for the first time in 40 years. Now, with all the levers of state government in their control, Michigan Democrats are swiftly dismantling conservative policy victories that took Republicans years to achieve.
On Thursday, the lower chamber of Michigan’s legislature voted to repeal the state’s Freedom to Work law. This “right-to-work” provision prohibits organized-labor organizations from involuntarily levying dues and service fees on individuals whose place of work is covered by a collective-bargaining agreement, whether those individuals are union members or not. In a savvy maneuver, Democrats attached a modest $1 million appropriation to the bill. Republican lawmakers contend that this is designed to render the bill “referendum-proof” because Michigan law prohibits plebiscites on bills that include appropriations.
Democrats have admitted that the language in this bill does not comport with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Janus v. AFSCME, in which the Court’s majority found that public-sector unions cannot extract agency fees from non-consenting employees without violating their First Amendment rights. Moreover, it’s unclear if Governor Gretchen Whitmer will sign it into law, since she already promised to veto any “non-appropriations bill [that] has a dollar amount added to circumvent the people’s right to a referendum.” But it’s reasonable to expect that Whitmer will find some way to justify violating her pledge so that private-sector unions may once again garnish the wages of nonmembers. For public-sector workers, Michigan Democrats plan to keep the bill on ice “as a placeholder should Janus be overturned.”
This Democrat-led assault on the rights of Michiganders to choose their own affiliations and withhold their support from political organizations that do not represent their values is just the beginning.