As we reported last week, in a surprising move last Thursday, the Michigan House and Senate both passed right-to-work legislation and sent the legislation to Michigan Governor Rick Snyder for his review and signature. Yesterday, Governor Snyder signed the bills shortly after receiving them, officially turning Michigan into a right-to-work state. The legislation will become effective 90 days after the end of the current legislation session, which will likely be in April.

Under the new law, employees working in an organized bargaining unit can refuse to join the union and decide not to pay union dues. The law will only apply to collective bargaining agreements entered in to, or extended or renewed, after the law becomes effective. Labor advocates and union leaders have criticized the legislation, predicting that it will have dire consequences and hurt the middle class. Proponents of the legislation counter that Michigan will now have a competitive advantage over other states in the Midwest, and will be more attractive to employers.

The legislation is particularly notable given that Michigan has long been a stronghold for organized labor. Over 17 percent of its work force is unionized—one of the highest unionization rates in the country—and it is the birthplace of the United Auto Workers union. And despite the rushed legislation, approximately 12,000 people demonstrated at the State Capitol building to protest Governor Snyder’s signature. 

Labor advocates and Democrats have started efforts to repeal the legislation. Although some have begun legal challenges and discussed initiating a recall effort, most are focusing on the 2014 elections, where they hope to elect legislators and a governor who will repeal the law. Labor advocates are also considering an effort to have the law repealed by state ballot; however, because the bill was passed shortly after the most recent elections, the earliest opportunity to conduct a state-wide vote would not occur until the 2014 elections.