Union membership drops 11 percent
After the first full year of accounting since the Right to Work law was passed in Michigan, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics found an 11 percent decrease in union membership for the state from 2013 to 2014. Jonathan Oosting of MLive reports that in 2014, 14.5 percent of the state’s working population were union members, amounting to roughly 585,000 people, down from the roughly 633,000 in 2013, at 16.3 percent of Michigan’s employed.
The legislature passed the controversial “Right to Work” Public Act 348 prohibiting an employer from requiring employees to be members of unions. The bill received public attention, fueled by out-of-state support and highlighted by protests staged at the Capitol, with statewide efforts to sign “union security clauses” with employer contracts before the bills passing. In December 2012,Michigan was the 24th state to pass RTW legislation, to come into effect Mar. 28, 2013.
Oosting spoke with associate professor of labor relations Michelle Kaminski from Michigan State University, who said that the decrease was expected to occur, and because contracts typically span two or more years we might expect more decrease over a larger amount of time. Kaminski notes that Public Act 53 of 2012, which prohibits school districts from deducting union dues from teachers automatically may have also contributed to the drop in union membership.
These numbers are released as the debate continues on whether or not Right to Work legislation should apply to public sector unions. Chad Livengood of the Detroit News reports that the Michigan Supreme Court is hearing the case raised by the UAW which sued on the constitutionality of the RTW law with respect to public employees, arguing that the wages and working conditions of State employees are set by the Civil Service Commission. Although the Court has not reached a verdict, they question whether the CSC has the authority to set bargaining conditions like compulsory union fees.