What union disputes in Michigan mean for companies

The passing of a right-to-work law in the home state of the Big Three auto companies is drawing major attention. Here’s what it could mean for your company.

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While it makes for dramatic news coverage, the workers clogging Michigan’s capitol couldn’t stop the tide pushing out unions state-by-state. Even made-for-media quotes by union bosses—among them, “When right-wing groups have gone after the labor movement, it’s like kicking a hornet’s nest and workers just don’t back down” or “Maybe it will awaken a sleeping giant”—were not enough to stop the anti-union trend.

The signing by Michigan’s governor this week of the so-called right-to-work bill is a huge blow to unions struggling to maintain membership and political clout. The law, similar to ones in 22 other states, basically gives workers the choice of whether or not they want to pay union dues.

For companies whose workers are covered by union contracts, it means there may be more wiggle room in negotiations, given the news in Michigan, the birthplace of modern day unions. It is not, however, a mandate to run roughshod over unions.

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