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Prevailing wage, right-to-work repeal put on MI House fast track

Main gallery of the Michigan House of Representatives
Lester Graham
Michigan Radio
The chamber of Michigan's House of Representatives in Lansing. Leaders in the Michigan legislature and Governor Granholm are close to an agreement on the budget.

Michigan House Democrats plan to move quickly Wednesday on bringing down two Republican labor laws that diminished union power and their ability to bargain contracts. Both were key priorities announced after Democrats took control of the Legislature this year.

One of the bills would repeal Michigan’s right-to-work law, which prohibits making union membership a condition of employment. The other would require contractors hired for state projects to pay union-level wages.

The two hot-button Democratic priorities have been put in a fast track for votes Wednesday in the state House of Representatives. The plan is for the bills to have a committee hearing in the morning before being sent to the House floor for votes in the afternoon.

Democratic Representative Jim Haadsma (D-Battle Creek) chairs the House Labor Committee. He said the decision to move the bills quickly was made by House Democratic leaders.

“I am not the Speaker of the House. I am not leadership in the House,” he said. “But I am someone who, as has been asked, am supportive of repealing right to work and am supportive of ensuring that we have restoration of prevailing wage.”

Republicans blasted the Democrats’ plans.

“Democrats are rushing through their pay-cut plan to take hard-earned money from workers’ paychecks and give it to union lobbyists,” said House Republican Leader Matt Hall (R-Marshall) said in a statement. “Our right to work law empowers people to choose good careers without fearing they could lose their jobs if they don’t pay a union, and these protections guarantee workers job security and greater accountability over their representation.”

Michigan’s right-to-work bills were adopted by the Legislature’s Republican majorities in 2018 over the fierce objections of Democrats and labor unions and signed by then-Governor Rick Snyder. In 2012, the GOP-led Legislature repealed the law that requires contractors to pay union-level wages on publicly funded projects. In 2021, though, Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced Michigan would make prevailing wage a condition of winning state contracts.

The House timeline would clear the way for the labor bills to be on Whitmer’s desk before the Legislature begins its spring recess later 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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