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Michigan Repeals “Right-To-Work” Law

New York City’s construction unions applaud the historic repeal of Michigan’s “right-to-work” law and stand in solidarity with all workers fighting for their rights.


The repeal of the state’s “right-to-work,” which went into effect this year, was hard-won by working people across the state.

With Governor Gretchen Whitmer's signature, the Wolverine State just bulldozed its "right-to-work" law, a decade-old barrier against worker’s rights. The move is a monumental win for unions and a game-changer for working men and women across the state. The historic reversal marks the first repeal of such a law in 58 years. It’s just one more sign of the rising tide of union power in America.

“Today, we are coming together to restore workers’ rights, protect Michiganders on the job, and grow Michigan’s middle class,” Governor Whitmer said in a statement.

What Makes “Right to Work” Wrong

"Right to Work" laws gut workers' rights under the guise of protecting their free choice. Advocates of these laws claim they protect employees from forced union membership. But federal law already prevents forced union membership. So what is their true aim? Empowering big business at workers' expense, making it tougher for workers to secure fair pay, benefits, and safe conditions.

For too long, these laws have kneecapped unions and left workers to fend for themselves. Their impact is clear. Michigan had the nation’s 7th highest percentage of unionized workers when its “right-to-work” law was passed in 2012. Ten years later, it had dropped to 11th place as union membership fell by 2.6 percent. This equates to less pay and worse conditions for thousands of workers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, wages in "right-to-work" states lag more than 15% behind their pro-union counterparts.

"Right-to-Work" laws cripple workers' ability to organize despite the fact that the National Labor Relations Act guarantees that right.

Wrong from the Start, Wrong Today

From their inception, “right-to-work” laws have had nefarious ulterior motives. As Union Built Matters previously reported, the term “right-to-work” was first coined by Vance Muse, a segregationist and white supremecist. He pushed for the laws because he feared that unions could topple the Jim Crow era racial hierarchy by bringing black and white workers together in solidarity. Given the outsized benefits that unions have for marginalized groups, Vance Muse would be happy to know that these laws are still having their intended effect of holding African Americans back.


Support for unions and the desire for their influence in the workplace continues to rise nationwide.

One Down, 26 to Go

In total, 26 states now have “right-to-work” laws in place. With Michigan’s repeal, that is one less state than at the start of 2024. But there is still a lot of work to be done in dismantling these harmful laws that are on the books in over half the country. The struggle will be worth it. New York City’s construction unions stand in solidarity with all workers fighting for their right to organize.


Mark Colangelo is a writer and blogger.

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