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Supporters say Indiana debate builds pressure to approve “right-to-work” in Michigan

A button from the "Right to Work" campaign of the 1970s. An entirely different campaign from the one being organized today.
Danny Birchall
A button from the "Right to Work" campaign of the 1970s. An entirely different campaign from the one being organized today.

People who want to end compulsory union membership in Michigan are closely watching Indiana. Debate began in that state’s Capitol today to make Indiana the first “right-to-work” state in the industrial Midwest.

The legislation would ban the requirement that workers pay union dues as a condition of holding a job.

Michigan “right-to-work” supporters say the Indiana debate boosts their cause in a state where Republican Governor Rick Snyder has said the issue is too divisive to tackle.

State Representative Mike Shirkey disagrees with Snyder and plans to introduce a “right-to-work” bill in the Michigan Legislature.

“Right now, Michigan does not actually touch any states that are labor freedom states and if and when it happens in Indiana, it will become a first and I think it raises the stakes for us to evaluate why it’s important for Michigan to become a labor freedom state,” said Shirkey.

Shirkey said if Indiana goes “right to work,” it will attract businesses that would otherwise locate in Michigan.

Opponents of right-to-work laws say they drive down wages and don’t do much to help a state’s economy.

Zack Pohl is with a union-backed progressive group, We The People. He said there was a backlash in Ohio after Republicans pushed through a law to limit the collective bargaining rights of public employees.

Ohio voters reversed that measure in the last election.

“Hopefully, our elected officials here in Michigan will get the message as well that we’ve had enough of these same-old power struggles from both parties, frankly, and we need to be focused on creating good jobs that create a fair wage and not on attacking Michigan’s teachers, nurses, and firefighters,” Pohl said.

It’s expected a “right to work” measure will be introduced in the Michigan Legislature as soon as this month.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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