Will Repeal Worker-Freedom Law, Michigan Governor Candidate Vows

Published June 12, 2018

Gretchen Whitmer, a candidate in the Michigan Democratic Party gubernatorial primary, says she will work to repeal the state’s right-to-work (RTW) law, if selected by her party and elected in November.

At a May 30 speech addressing the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Mackinac Policy Conference, Whitmer claimed RTW proponents said the law would transform the state’s economy immediately and it has not done so.

“It hasn’t made us a place where business is flocking,” Whitmer said. “That was the promise of right-to-work, was that all of sudden there would be this new environment and we’d be more attractive to business investment and that would have a trickle-down approach of increasing people’s incomes and lifestyles—and that’s not happened.” She promised to sign a repeal.

Currently, 28 states and one U.S. territory have right-to-work (RTW) laws, which free workers from having to join unions as a condition of employment. Michigan’s worker-freedom law has been in effect since March 2013.

Correcting the Record

Stan Greer, a senior research associate for the National Institute for Labor Relations Research and a policy advisor for The Heartland Institute, which publishes Budget & Tax News, says statistics show Michigan’s worker-freedom law has sparked skyrocketing job growth over the past five years.

“We see evidence in Michigan that, in fact, job-creating businesses have been making decisions based on RTW since Michigan switched over from forced unionism,” Greer said. “In the five years for which there are data, manufacturing employment in Michigan went up by nearly 16 percent—and that’s more than all but two states in the country in percentage terms.”

Jarrett Skorup, director of communications at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, says RTW has caused Michigan’s fortunes to trend upwards after years of decline.

“Our research shows that right-to-work is good for the economy,” Skorup said. “We’ve been a national leader in jobs and income growth, and we’ve reversed the flow of people leaving the state.”

Says Workers Empowered

Workers benefit from the freedom to say no to union bosses, Greer says.

“In forced-unionism states, the union can penalize workers who are members who take a nonunion job,” Greer said. “In the right-to-work states, they have different rules, and workers who are members are free to take these jobs without being penalized for them.

“It really illustrates how right-to-work laws give the individual worker more power over the union organization than they have when unionism is compulsory,” Greer said. “Union officials are less free to push around workers when workers have the option to quit and completely cut off their financial support.”

Predicts Business, Job Flight

Skorup says the candidate’s anti-RTW plan would return Michigan to a road to decline.

“The most significant thing that would happen is workers would now have no choice but to pay $500 to $1,000 a year to a union against their will,” he said. “Secondly, on the economics side, it makes it less likely that businesses will want to open in the state of Michigan.

“Having a right-to-work environment signals that you’re more open for business,” Skorup said.