Despite angry protests at the state capitol, Michigan’s Governor Rick Snyder signed a right-to-work statute into law on December 11. Michigan joins 23 other states in exercising the 65-year-old option under the Taft-Hartley amendments to the National Labor Relations Act to prohibit “union security” clauses (in general, clauses that require employees to pay dues to a union as a condition of employment) in collective bargaining agreements.

The new “Workplace Fairness and Equity Act” covers most public and private sector employees (with the exception of police and fire) in prohibiting any requirement that an employee join a union, or pay dues to a union, as a condition of employment. The Act applies to any “agreement, contract, understanding, or practice that takes effect or is extended or renewed” after its effective date, which likely will be around April 1, 2013. The full range of other federal labor rights under the National Labor Relations Act, including a union’s obligation to represent all bargaining unit employees regardless of whether an employee is a dues paying member, are unaffected by the new Michigan law.

In addition to prohibiting future union security clauses, the statute creates a cause of action against individuals or unions who try to intimidate or otherwise coerce employees in deciding whether to become a union member or pay dues. Damages and actual attorney’s fees are provided for a violation of the statute.

As would be expected, unions and their advocates are not giving up. Court challenges to the legislation have already been filed. In addition, if the aggressive protest activity is any guide (a number of schools even closed to permit teachers to attend the rally), protracted political battles will continue in Michigan.

Since the law applies to any “agreement, contract, understanding, or practice that takes effect or is extended or renewed” after its effective date, unions currently in negotiations have a strong incentive to reach an agreement sooner rather than later. The law should give unionized Michigan employers strong leverage in any ongoing union contract negotiations to trade a long-term contract or extension desired by the union for favorable contract language and economic terms. Indeed, at least one union has already proposed a 10-year extension of its collective bargaining agreement with annual economic reopeners in an effort to salvage its union security provisions.

The question now is whether adoption of the new Michigan law proves an encouragement to other states, such as New Hampshire, where right-to-work bills have languished, to pass similar laws. That remains to be seen.

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Photo of Philip B. Rosen Philip B. Rosen

Philip B. Rosen is a Principal in the New York City office of Jackson Lewis P.C. and a member of the Firm’s Management Committee. Mr. Rosen also leads the firm’s Labor Practice Group. He joined the Firm in 1979 and served as Managing…

Philip B. Rosen is a Principal in the New York City office of Jackson Lewis P.C. and a member of the Firm’s Management Committee. Mr. Rosen also leads the firm’s Labor Practice Group. He joined the Firm in 1979 and served as Managing Partner of the New York City office from 1989 to 2009.

Mr. Rosen lectures extensively, conducts management training, and advises clients with respect to legislative and regulatory initiatives, corporate strategies, business ethics, social media, reorganizations and reductions-in-force, purchase/sale transactions, sexual harassment and other workplace conduct rules, compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act, wrongful discharge and other workplace litigation, corporate campaigns and union organizing matters, collective bargaining, arbitration and National Labor Relations Board proceedings. He has been quoted by the press on many labor matters, including the National Labor Relations Board’s recent initiatives on protected concerted activity and the proposed Notice Posting requirements.

Photo of Howard M. Bloom Howard M. Bloom

Howard M. Bloom is a Principal in the Boston, Massachusetts, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He has practiced labor and employment law representing exclusively employers for more than 36 years.

Mr. Bloom counsels clients in a variety of industries on labor law issues.

Howard M. Bloom is a Principal in the Boston, Massachusetts, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He has practiced labor and employment law representing exclusively employers for more than 36 years.

Mr. Bloom counsels clients in a variety of industries on labor law issues. He trains and advises executives, managers and supervisors on union awareness and positive employee relations, and assists employers in connection with union card-signing efforts, traditional union representation and corporate campaigns, and union decertification campaigns. He also represents clients at the National Labor Relations Board in connection with bargaining unit issues, objections and challenges, as well as unfair labor practice investigations and trials. Mr. Bloom also has been the spokesperson at countless first and successor contract collective bargaining negotiations, and regularly advises on collective bargaining agreement administration issues, including grievance/arbitration issues.

Mr. Bloom has appeared before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, several U.S. District Courts, the National Labor Relations Board, the Massachusetts Labor Relations Commission, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination.

Mr. Bloom speaks frequently to employer groups on a wide range of labor and employment law topics. He also has written extensively on labor and employment law for a variety of publications, including New England Business magazine, The Boston Globe and the Boston Business Journal. He also is editor of and a frequent contributor to the Jackson Lewis Labor & Collective Bargaining Blog.

While attending law school, he was the Executive Editor of The Advocate: the Suffolk University Law School Journal and President of the Student Bar Association.

Mr. Bloom is a diehard baseball fan. His first book, The Baseball Uncyclopedia: A Highly Opinionated Myth-Busting Guide to the Great American Game, was published in February 2006.