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Michigan Democrats Take Major Step to Roll Back Right-to-Work Law

Michigan Democrats took a major step toward one of their top legislative priorities last week by passing a measure in the House to roll back the state's decade-old "right to work" law.

The bill, which was backed by Michigan labor unions but opposed by most business interests, was approved on a party-line vote. The measure goes next to the state Senate. The law, passed in 2012, prohibits labor contracts requiring union fees or dues as a condition of employment.

Aaron Pelo, communications director of the Michigan AFL-CIO, said if the measure becomes law, it will restore many rights workers have lost.

"The action that the House just took is really, in our eyes, a restoration of worker freedom," Pelo explained. "It puts power back into the hands of Michigan workers to negotiate for better wages and better benefits, and safer workplaces."

House members also approved a measure restoring Michigan's prevailing wage, which would require companies contracting with the state to pay workers union-level wages. Business interests argued both measures would make Michigan less competitive and hurt the economy.

According to the AFL-CIO, 27 states currently have right to work laws. The regulation came about through the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act, which prohibits a "closed shop" in which employees are required to be members of a union.

Pelo noted unions have fought against right-to-work for many years.

"We know that states that have these worker suppression policies like right to work, they have lower wages, they have worse benefits, they have weaker safety standards, and higher risk of accident and injury on the job," Pelo outlined.

Legislative observers expect a close vote in the Michigan Senate where Democrats hold a 20-18 margin over the GOP.

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