By Andrew Ganz
Friday, Dec 7th, 2012 @ 9:28 am
 

Long a union stronghold thanks to the state's industrial economy, Michigan could soon allow workers to opt out of paying dues to organized labor.

If the state's governor signs the bills into law, the move will undoubtedly have major ramifications in the auto industry. All three Detroit automakers - Chrysler, Ford and General Motors - build a substantial number of vehicles in Michigan.

Yesterday, Michigan's House and Senate both passed bills that would give public and private sector workers the ability to skip union dues in organized workplaces, including the many new car and car component assembly plants spread across the state. Because of a preexisting binding arbitration clause, only police and fire unions would be exempt from the bills.

Michigan requires a five day layover for the bills, which will give union-backed opponents time to lobby against the legislation. However, Michigan governor Rick Snyder has vowed to sign a right-to-work bill into law, a move that would make Michigan the 24th right-to-work state.

Most of the right-to-work states are either in the South, the Great Plains or the mountain west, although Indiana and Iowa stand alone in the Midwest. Michigan's Republicans have cited Indiana's February passing of a right-to-work law as motivation for their push during the current session.

Michigan's Republicans have a 64-46 majority in the House right now, but that will drop to 59-51 in January since Democrats gained a few seats in the last election. Since the House needs 56 votes to pass the bills, Republicans used this week's lame duck session since they have a much stronger foothold in Lansing than they will next year.

Auto industry

As one of the country's strongest and biggest unions, the United Auto Workers stands to lose the most should the bills be signed into law.

Opponents like Democratic State Representative Steven Lindberg of Marquette said that the bill is about "breaking unions."

UAW President Bob King held a press conference outside of the Michigan Capitol in Lansing, where he vocalized the UAW's discontent.

"Every right-to-work state in America has lower wages, lower benefits, greater income inequality, more discrimination, less equality in the workplace," King said. "Right to work is wrong for Michigan."

If the measure is signed into law, it won't go into effect until at least April 1.