Bloomberg Law
March 24, 2023, 5:22 PM

Whitmer Signs Union-Backed ‘Right to Work’ Repeal in Michigan

Chris Marr
Chris Marr
Staff Correspondent

Michigan became the first state in decades to repeal its “right to work” law, which prevented labor contracts from requiring covered workers to join a union or pay dues, under legislation Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) signed into law.

Enactment of the legislation (SB 34), which Whitmer signed Friday, is a major win for labor unions. It’s part of Democrats’ pro-labor agenda that includes separate bills related to public-sector union dues and prevailing wages for state construction projects that Whitmer also signed into law.

Prior to this legislation, Michigan was one of 27 states that prohibited labor contracts imposing mandatory union membership or dues as a condition of employment. The repeal of the “right to work” law takes effect no later than March 31, 2024, 90 days after the end of the current session.

The Democratic-sponsored legislation passed strictly along party lines after Democrats won narrow majorities in the state House and Senate while Whitmer won re-election in November.

Among other employment-law priorities for Democrats this year, Whitmer signed a measure March 16 to specifically add sexual orientation and gender identity to the state’s anti-discrimination law.

The “right to work” repeal will mean private-sector employees in unionized workplaces can be contractually required to join the union or pay dues, a common provision in states where the law doesn’t ban such a requirement.

Unions, including the Michigan AFL-CIO, advocated for the repeal legislation, arguing Republicans’ passage of the “right to work” law in 2012 brought a decade of declines in Michigan workers’ wages and benefits relative to the workforce nationally.

Business groups such as the National Federation of Independent Business fought against the repeal. They said it would hurt Michigan’s ability to recruit businesses and create new jobs, and would unfairly force workers to join and pay into unions or else risk losing employment.

Whitmer signed a companion bill (HB 4004) to erase the state’s “right to work” law for public-sector workers as well. That bill’s sponsors acknowledged public-sector unions will still be blocked from requiring government employees to join or pay dues under the US Supreme Court’s 2018 decision in Janus v. AFSCME.

The governor also signed a third bill (HB 4007) as part of Democrats’ pro-labor package, restoring Michigan’s prevailing wage law to set minimum pay requirements for workers involved in state-funded construction and infrastructure projects.

No state legislature has voted to repeal a right to work law since Indiana in 1965—which later re-enacted its law in 2012. Missouri overturned a “right to work” law in 2018, but that change came via ballot measure, not the statehouse.

To contact the reporter on this story: Chris Marr in Atlanta at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rebekah Mintzer at; Laura D. Francis at

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