We’re quickly approaching the one year anniversary of the passage of Michigan’s Right to Work law.  This is a law that most people thought we would never see in our state.  At the time it was passed, it was touted as a law that would attract new business because of the reduced risk of unionization and it would help Michigan compete with the Southern states.

Before Michigan employers should think that Michigan unions will be joining Studebaker in the history books, there are two things to watch closely:

  • The right to opt out:  One of the biggest strengths of Michigan’s Right to Work law is the right of employees to opt out of membership and the payment of union dues.  It’s also one of the biggest negatives.  Previously, requiring everyone to be a member and pay union dues was one of the tools that employers used to prevail in union elections.  Now that tool is greatly diminished.  Employees can vote for a union and if they don’t like it, can simply choose to opt out once it is in place.
  • Recognition of “Micro-units”:  In a recent Federal court of appeals case:  Kindred Nursing Centers East v. NLRB, the court allowed unionization of small groups of employees.  In this case, they approved a bargaining unit made up only of certified nursing assistants.  Nurses, maintenance, housekeeping, and other employees were excluded.

What does this mean for employers?  Most companies will always have that small group of actively disengaged employees.  With these changes, it is potentially easier for them to unionize.  That means it’s more important than ever to stay in touch with them.

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