Michigan Repeals Right-To-Work

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Michigan repealed the state’s anti-union right-to-work law last year, and that legislation goes into effect today.

The repeal is significant: It’s the first time a state has repealed a right-to-work law in half a century, an outcome that’s downstream of both rising pro-union politics in the U.S. and Democrats’ solid majority in the Michigan legislature, which was won the same year a referendum protecting the right to an abortion was on the ballot. Right-to-work laws, pushed by various conservative politicians and interest groups over the last several decades, let union members opt out of paying dues, dramatically undermining the power of organized labor.

TPM’s Kate Riga did a pair of pieces on how the state got to this point. One point sticks in my mind about how the fight over right-to-work, and unions more generally, impacts our politics more broadly. From one of Kate’s articles:

A 2018 study from the National Bureau of Economic Research found that right-to-work laws reduce Democratic presidential vote shares by 3.5 percentage points, with similar effects on Senate, House, gubernatorial and state legislative races. The study also found that turnout drops by 2 percentage points in right-to-work counties after passage, and that it dampens labor contributions to Democratic candidates and makes it less likely that potential Democratic voters are contacted to vote. It also reduces the number of working class candidates elected, while state policy marches towards the right.

“Labor unions are also important forces in protecting and expanding democratic institutions,” Jake Grumbach, an associate professor of political science at the University of Washington, told TPM. “My research with Paul Frymer shows that labor union membership makes white workers more racially solidaristic and less susceptible to the culture war politics that threatens democratic stability.” 

Kate’s articles can be found here and here.

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