HR News & Trends, Legal Issues

That Controversial Right-to-Work Vote: If It Can Happen In Michigan…

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By Marc Bloch

Earlier this week, after much heated debate in the state legislature, Michigan became the 24th state to adopt right-to-work legislation.

The decision has left those in other states — on both sides of the argument — wondering, “if it could happen it Michigan, could it happen here?”

The answer is yes. And, most likely, sooner than you think. Right-to-work legislation is fast becoming a growing reality. Indiana already has assumed the role of “poster child” for the movement, promoting the amount of business growth it already has achieved since eliminating union shops within its borders earlier this year.

Right-to-work push shouldn’t be a surprise

Now, with traditionally union-heavy Michigan passing the latest measure and proclaiming it is “open for business,” expect other states to jump on the proverbial bandwagon in an effort to remain competitive. Many likely will take proactive measures to prevent the loss of business from across their borders, particularly those adjacent to ones that already have passed right-to-work laws.

This shouldn’t really come as a shock to anyone. The right-to-work debate has been hotly contested – even if only behind closed doors – for as long as many of us in the labor field can remember. However, the historic decision in Michigan could truly be the catalyst needed to accelerate the pace at which legislation is drafted, presented and even passed in other states that have been eyeing such measures.

Of course, don’t expect this to happen without a fight. Unions nationwide have been keeping a close eye on the right-to-work issue.

This is particularly true in Ohio, where the recent election victory could give Democrats both the footing and incentive needed to wage a formidable battle. And in Ohio, with all the publicity surrounding the recent Michigan right-to-work victory, Ohioans will not be caught off guard by right-to-work legislation talk moving across the border.

More change may be coming in 2013

Democratic action notwithstanding, right-to-work activism nationwide is here to stay. And, as a result, it appears that 2013 certainly will be an interesting year from a labor perspective.

Change is taking hold, and it appears it is infectious. Lobbyists on both sides of this crucial political debate are poised to spring to action in statehouses across the nation, while strategists already most likely are mapping out plans behind closed doors.

For those in support of the measure, including Republicans and business advocates, the successful passage of these laws spells the opportunity to compete effectively with surrounding states for new business development.

On the union side of things, it’s a completely different story. It is becoming one that’s a matter of survival.

Not only does right-to-work legislation weaken long-established authority, but it also cuts at the heart of the organized labor’s financial foundation because under the new laws, unions cannot require employees to pay union dues.

Marc Bloch is Bloch is a partner in the Labor and Employment Group at Walter|Haverfield LLP in Cleveland. He has more than 40 years of experience, in both the public and private sectors, in the field of labor relations law. From 1969-1972, he served as an attorney with the National Labor Relations Board and, in 1973, he entered the private sector, where he has practiced ever since. You can contact him at mbloch@walterhav.com.