Model Right-to-Work Language

Model language for a right-to-work amendment to the Michigan Constitution appears in Graphic 2. If implemented, this language presumably would be added at the end of Article 1.

This model language is presented as a constitutional amendment, rather than as a statute, because part of the value of a right-to-work provision is the message the provision sends to businesses about the state’s business climate. This message might be attenuated if the right-to-work provision were simply placed in statute, which is easier to manipulate, change or repeal — a natural concern in Michigan, a state with a long history of a strong union political presence. Further, a right-to-work provision is more than just an economic measure: It involves a basic employment right that is arguably more appropriate as a constitutional, rather than statutory, requirement. Nevertheless, if the Legislature and the governor wished to pass this model right-to-work language as a statute, the model language would serve that purpose.*

Graphic 2: Model Right-to-Work Amendment for Michigan

A. As used in this section, "labor organization" means any agency, union, employee representation committee, or organization of any kind that exists for the purpose, in whole or in part, of dealing with employers concerning wages, rates of pay, hours of work, other conditions of employment, or other forms of compensation.

B. No person shall be required as a condition of obtaining or continuing public-sector or private-sector employment to:

1. Resign or refrain from membership in, voluntary affiliation with, or voluntary financial support of, a labor organization.

2. Become or remain a member of a labor organization.

3. Pay any dues, fees, assessments, or other charges of any kind or amount, or provide anything else of value, to a labor organization.

4. Pay to any charity or other third party an amount equivalent to, or a portion of, dues, fees, assessments, or other charges required of members of a labor organization.

C. An agreement, contract, understanding, or practice between a labor organization and an employer that violates this section is unlawful and unenforceable. This section will apply only to those agreements, contracts, understandings or practices that take force or are extended or renewed after this section takes effect.

D. Any person who suffers an injury or a threatened injury under this section may bring a civil action for damages, injunctive relief, or both. In addition, the court shall award a prevailing plaintiff costs and reasonable attorney fees.

E. This section shall be self-executing. If any part or parts of this section are found to be in conflict with the United States Constitution or federal law, the section shall be implemented to the maximum extent that the United States Constitution and federal law permit. Any provision held invalid or inoperative shall be severable from the remaining portions of this section.

* Of course, minor modifications would be necessary to adapt the language to the requirements of statutory law. For example, legislators would need to strike the sentence in clause E indicating that the section was self-executing, and they would likely need to separately amend Michigan’s Public Employment Relations Act (see MCL § 423.201 et seq.). As will be discussed later, the Legislature would also need to decide whether violation of the right-to-work provisions should constitute a misdemeanor offense.