LANSING, Mich. (Michigan News Source) – After Governor Gretchen Whitmer said yesterday that she would be willing to sign a repeal of Michigan’s right-to-work law – even if it includes appropriations – the Senate Labor Committee voted to advance bills pertaining to right-to-work and re-establishing a prevailing wage standard today. 

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The right-to-work law which was passed under former Gov. Rick Snyder a decade previously, barred labor contracts from requiring workers to become union members or pay the union a fee as a condition of employment.  Advocates of the law have argued the policy has made Michigan more competitive for potential employees who have the decision to join a union or not.  

Michigan’s Senate version of the bills, includes a $1 million appropriation to respond to public inquiries and to “inform employers, employees and labor organizations about changes to their rights and responsibilities.”  

Since the time that Governor Whitmer was a state senator, she has opposed the right-to-work laws and ardently supported its repeal.  When thousands of protestors gathered at the capitol to protest the then right-to-work bill advancement in 2012, they were barred from entering the building.  However, the senator helped them gain access. 

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“When the governor [Rick Snyder] locked the public out during their attack on collective bargaining, I threw open the doors to the Capitol and led the resistance from my office,” Governor Whitmer said in an interview.  

Since the time of the bills passing, Michigan union membership has dropped from nearly 629,000 to roughly 589,000 according to statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.   

The House passed the bills by a margin of 56 yes votes to 53 no votes late last Wednesday night after representatives discussed it on the floor. 

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Advocates like House Majority Floor Leader and Representative Abraham Aiyash (D-Hamtramck) said that the repeal would restore “the right to work in a safe place,” and that it would restore “the right for dignified retirements.” 

House Minority Leader Matt Hall (R-Richland Township) shared his concern for the repeal’s negative effects on the state’s economy. 

“Ditching this successful, pro-worker policy will only slash workers’ wages and drive up the price tag needed to land future manufacturing projects,” Representative Hall said in a statement.  

The Senate is expected to vote on the package of bills soon with the anticipation of the governor’s signature and the state’s sixth Public Act since the new session began.