Michigan Lawmaker Introduces Worker’s Choice Bill. What's that?

State Representative Gary Glenn recently introduced Worker's Choice legislation, which would strengthen worker rights and release unions from representing those who chose not to pay membership dues. 

Here's more from a press release by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy:

Rep. Gary Glenn, R-Midland, introduced House Bill 5829 to bring Worker’s Choice to Michigan. Worker’s Choice is a solution first championed by F. Vincent Vernuccio, director of labor policy for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. It would give workers the freedom to represent themselves in negotiations with their employers, and free unions from having to provide services to non-members.

“Right-to-work gave workers the freedom to decide whether to pay a union, but they are still forced to accept representation from a union, even if they don’t want it,” Vernuccio said. “Worker’s Choice gives employees the opportunity to say ‘no thanks’ to union representation and unions the ability to say ‘goodbye’ to those who don’t pay dues.”

If Glenn’s bill becomes law, workers would be allowed to opt to directly approach their employer to negotiate compensation and terms of employment. The legislation could also protect Michigan’s right-to-work law from lawsuits aimed at overturning it on the grounds it violates constitutional taking clauses.

Stephen Hall, a math and science teacher in Flint Community Schools, says he supports the idea of Worker’s Choice. He says it would give teachers like him the ability to work with their employer to create contracts that are more suited to personal wants and needs, rather than the one-size-fits-all contract negotiated by the union.

“Teachers really want choices, teachers really want to have some say in what’s going on with their contract,” Hall said. “Usually you have a small group of people negotiating their contract. And they’re trying their best to represent teachers … but still you have three or four people negotiating for everyone.”

Worker’s Choice, Hall believes, will improve the workplace environment because workers who have a choice will be happier. He added that Worker’s Choice is also fair to unions.

“I believe that if people are going to leave the union, they need to accept the responsibility of not receiving union services,” Hall said. “That’s only fair. The union is providing a certain service. If you leave the union, you don’t get that service.”

If passed, Michigan would be the first state to allow workers such freedom. Glenn offered the following comments on the historic bill:

"Both employees' individual freedom and Michigan's economy have expanded since we passed Right to Work in 2012, but further reform of our state's labor laws is needed to keep that momentum going. Worker's Choice provides that union officials would no longer have the unique legal authority to represent, bargain for, or contractually bind government employees who choose not to join or pay dues to the union. Under this simple fairness legislation, union officials would no longer represent and bargain for non-members. They would only represent voluntary dues-paying members, as should be the case."

Worker’s Choice is one of 13 solutions included in the Top Labor Reforms for Michigan, which the Center released for Labor Day 2016 and sent to every Michigan lawmaker. Some of the other recommendations include reforming the retirement plans offered to new school employees, requiring government unions to be periodically recertified, and requiring union transparency.

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