Michigan workers can still reject union boss demands to formally join union and fund union ideological activities
Washington, DC (March 27, 2023) – The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation has issued special legal notices to private and public sector workers in Michigan, following the Michigan Legislature’s repeal of the state’s popular Right to Work protections. Governor Whitmer signed the repeal bills last Friday.
The legal notices are available at the Foundation’s website: https://www.nrtw.org/michigan-private-sector-notice/ (for private sector workers) https://www.nrtw.org/michigan-public-sector-notice/ (for public sector workers).
The repeal will eventually grant Michigan union officials the power to compel private sector workers to pay money to a union hierarchy simply to keep a job. Although the repeal will not take effect until after the Legislature’s term concludes, the Foundation is issuing its notice now in response to workers’ inquiries already coming in about what this means for their rights and freedoms.
The legal notices explain that, despite this massive expansion of government-granted power for Michigan union bosses, private sector workers still have rights under federal law to opt out of formal union membership and to refuse to pay for union political or ideological expenditures, among other rights.
“[U]nder the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) workers subject to these forced fee arrangements cannot lawfully be compelled to be actual union members or pay full union dues to keep their jobs,” the notice reads.
As for public sector workers, the legal notices inform Michiganders that even though Michigan’s politicians have undone the state’s statutory protection against being forced to pay union bosses as a condition of employment, the repeal “does not—and cannot—strip [public sector] workers of their constitutional right” to refrain from funding union activities. The Supreme Court recognized public employees’ First Amendment right to abstain from union financial support in the 2018 Foundation-won Janus v. AFSCME ruling.
Despite Outrageous Union Power Grab, MI Union Bosses Still Can’t Force Private Sector Workers to Become Formal Members or Directly Support Union Politics
The notices inform Michigan private sector employees that the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Pattern Makers v. NLRB protects independent-minded workers’ right to refrain from formal union membership. The Foundation-won CWA v. Beck Supreme Court ruling also holds that, in a workplace under union control, the most that union bosses can force nonmember workers to pay is only a portion “of what the union can prove is its costs of collective bargaining, contract administration, and grievance adjustment with their employer,” an amount that does not include ideological expenses.
“Unions often fail to meet their legal obligation to inform workers of their right not to be a union member and to object to paying full union dues,” the notice reads. “In fact, unions sometimes mislead workers to believe that they must join the union to keep their jobs.”
On the issue of union fees, the notices continue, private sector workers also have a right not to have employers directly deducting such fees from their paychecks at union officials’ behest. Under the NLRA, union officials must obtain affirmative permission from an employee before making an employer redirect any portion of compensation to a union.
MI Private Sector Workers Have Right to Vote Out Unpopular Union Bosses
Private sector employees also have the right to petition for National Labor Relations Board-supervised “decertification elections,” which can strip union officials of their coercive powers of monopoly control over a work unit entirely.
Foundation attorneys assist hundreds of workers every year in voting out unions of which they disapprove, and NLRB data show that the average unionized worker is far more likely to be involved in an effort to vote out a union then a nonunion worker is to be involved in a unionization push.
“Union-label Michigan legislators are waging an all-out assault on Michigan workers’ individual rights by repealing Right to Work,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Instead of letting Michigan workers continue to enjoy the right to freely choose whether or not union officials have earned a cut of their hard-earned pay, Michigan legislators have granted union bosses a power that strips away basic free association rights – a power that 71% of those from Michigan union households do not want unions to have.”
“Michigan union bosses, including those at the scandal-mired UAW, will soon begin demanding that any worker under their control pay tribute to union bosses or else be fired,” Mix continued. “That’s why it’s more important than ever that Michigan workers know that they still have protections against many union boss demands, and Foundation attorneys will aid them in aggressively defending those rights.”
The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is a nonprofit, charitable organization providing free legal aid to employees whose human or civil rights have been violated by compulsory unionism abuses. The Foundation, which can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-336-3600, assists thousands of employees in around 250 cases nationwide per year.