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Michigan, A Right-To-Work State

12/14/12

On December 11, 2012, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed into law two bills, House Bill 4003 and Senate Bill 116, which make union membership and dues voluntary for public and private sector employees. With this legislation, Michigan becomes the twenty-fourth right-to-work state, but it is particularly controversial due to the high percentage of union employees in the state.

These laws prohibit any requirement that employees be forced to join a union or pay an agency fee to a union as a term or condition of employment. HB 4003 extends this prohibition to public sector employees, but creates an exemption for police and firefighters. The law also prohibits using force, intimidation or unlawful threats to attempt to influence an employee's decision to join a union. A person violating any of these requirements also would be liable for a civil fine of up to $500. Finally, the laws create a cause of action for a person who suffers an injury as the result of a violation of the new restrictions. Such an individual may bring a civil action for damages and/or injunctive relief, and will be entitled to reasonable costs and attorneys' fees if successful.

These laws will become effective in April of 2013. The new requirements will not affect any existing collective bargaining agreements, but any agreements that take effect, are extended or are renewed after the effective date will be bound by the provisions of right-to-work laws. These laws certainly will impact labor negotiations for many employers. If you are a Michigan employer and would like to know how this legislation affects your business, please contact us.

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