In late 2012, the lame duck Legislature quickly pushed through the Michigan Right to Work Law which makes it illegal to require an employee to financially support a union as a condition of employment.
The Michigan Right to Work Law allows employees to choose whether to pay dues and prohibits the employer from terminating the worker who chooses not to pay dues. Regardless of whether the employees pay dues, the union is still obligated to represent those employees in negotiations. That said, the union may impose certain restrictions on non-dues paying members such as prohibiting those members from the right to vote on ratification of the contract, or prohibiting those non-dues paying members from being elected a steward.
The law becomes effective on March 27, 2013 and could affect many collective bargaining agreements. If the employer and the union have a current contract, that contract stays in effect until expiration and the new Michigan law does not apply until a new contract is negotiated. If the employer and the union are currently negotiating a contract, the union will likely want to negotiate quickly in order to have that new contract in place before the effective date at the end of March 2013. If the contract expires after March 27, 2013, the Right to Work Law will apply to that new contract.
Even though the law is fairly broad in scope, there are several groups that are exempted including unions covered under the Railroad Labor Act, unions that represent federal government employees, and unions that represent police and fireman.
Opponents of the Right to Work Law have promised to challenge the constitutionality of the controversial bill in court. However, those challenges may become moot because on January 28, 2013, Governor Rick Snyder asked the Michigan Supreme Court to review the law and determine whether it passes constitutional muster.