The Commonwealth Foundation recently released its third report analyzing state labor laws. “The Battle for Worker Freedom in the States: Grading State Public Sector Labor Laws” finds that Michigan earned a “B” for worker freedom and taxpayer friendliness. Michigan’s current strong grade is thanks to its right-to-work law, a statutory prohibition on public employee strikes, and paycheck protection for public school employees. Such policies have saved taxpayers billions of dollars annually. These laws may be in danger, however, following November’s midterm election.
Since the last report in 2019, Michigan leaders expanded worker freedom by changing how the state deducts union dues for its employees. In 2020, Michigan began requiring yearly employee authorizations for dues deductions and annual notices of workers’ right not to join a union and to resign membership at any time. While these incremental changes aren’t enough to improve Michigan’s grade, they have a significant bearing on how workers understand their association rights.
As we have discovered in Pennsylvania, workers are often unaware of their rights and options regarding union membership. Simply explaining these rights has a profound impact on employees and can inspire workers to exercise their right not to join a union.
Government workers and taxpayers saw wins not only in Michigan, but in Arkansas and West Virginia, too. Arkansas enacted a wide- reaching ban on collective bargaining, and West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice signed a paycheck protection bill.
Nationwide, government union membership in the four largest unions has declined by almost 219,000 since the 2018 Janus Supreme Court decision.
Despite these important advances, government unions have made aggressive pushes to attract new members.
Virginia enacted a law permitting local governments to collectively bargain with their employees. In Colorado, Gov. Jared Polis signed two bills permitting state and county workers to unionize.
Mackinac’s Workers for Opportunity initiative is a key player in advancing workplace freedom. Nationwide, the initiative continues to work with stakeholders to push reforms that educate workers on their right to opt in and opt out of union membership whenever they choose. The new report highlights successes in Indiana and Oklahoma.
Four years after Janus, collective bargaining reforms remain vital to keeping local and state budgets in check and protecting Americans’ constitutional right to associate freely. We will have to wait and see how Michigan stacks up should right-to-work be repealed in the coming year.
Key Points From the Report
- In the four years following the Janus
v. AFSCME U.S. Supreme Court ruling, the nation’s four largest government unions — AFSCME, SEIU, NEA and AFT — have lost almost 219,000 union members.
- The Janus decision to end forced unionism for government workers accelerated a long-term decline in membership. In response, government unions are conducting aggressive campaigns to unionize new workers with recent successes in Virginia and Colorado.
- On the other hand, Arkansas banned collective bargaining for most government workers, and West Virginia passed a version of paycheck protection in 2021.
- While the legislative landscape is mixed, litigation efforts are making significant gains. For example, litigation brought by Pennsylvania government employees forced major unions — including SEIU, PSCOA, UFCW and AFSCME — to drop resignation restrictions from state contracts. These unions represent 51,500 employees, nearly half of all state employees.
- Three states experienced major grade changes since our 2019 report. Virginia dropped from “A+” to “C” for instituting collective bargaining, while Arkansas jumped from “C” to “A+” for banning it. Missouri’s comprehensive labor reforms were officially struck down, moving the state from “B” to “C.”