Private-Sector Worker Frequently Asked Questions

When did right-to-work become law?

March 28, 2013.

Under Michigan’s new right-to-work law, do I have to be a member of the union which represents employees like me at my job?

No. Being a member of a union is completely voluntary. You cannot legally be fired from your job or be penalized for belonging to a union or refraining from membership. This was true before right-to-work was passed.

Before right-to-work passed, however, in order to keep your job, your union could require nonmembers to pay an agency fee, which is often nearly the dues amount. Once right-to-work applies to you, you can no longer be fired if you don’t pay your union.

Am I required to pay any dues or fees to the union?

Maybe; if you are covered by a collective bargaining agreement that is in effect on March 28, 2013, you will have to continue paying at least agency fees until that collective bargaining agreement is extended or renewed. After that point, you can no longer be fired if you don’t pay the union.

What dues or fees you might have to pay will depend on whether you are covered by an existing collective bargaining agreement that has a union security agreement requiring dues or agency fees (almost all do) and whether you signed a dues check-off authorization card.

New, extended or modified contracts entered into after March 28 cannot include a clause forcing you to pay a union to keep your job.

Can I still pay my full dues if I like the way my union is representing me?

Yes. Nothing in Michigan’s new right-to-work law prevents you from paying full union dues or actively participating in any union in which you are a voluntary member.

How will right-to-work affect collective bargaining?

Besides taking away a union’s ability to require a worker to pay them, right-to-work has essentially no other effect on collective bargaining. Unions and workers will still be able to negotiate contract with employers. Right-to-work has no effect on a union’s ability to bargain over wages, hours and working conditions.

Negotiated contracts will still be binding on all employees in the collective bargaining unit, whether those employees have chosen to exercise their right-to-work rights or not.

In other words, the employee will not be negotiating his or her own salary and benefits; instead, that will still be performed by the union. But under right-to-work any provision that seeks to require an employee to pay support to a union in dues or agency fees is not enforceable. Thus an employee who chooses not to give a union support cannot be fired for that reason nor can the union file a civil lawsuit against the employee in order to seek financial support.

Can I exercise right-to-work immediately?

That depends of a couple of factors:

  1. The implementation date of your collective bargaining agreement; and

  2. The effect of any agreement between the employee allowing dues and/or agency fees to be deducted from their paycheck.

Right-to-work applies to a collective bargaining agreement that “takes effect or is extended or renewed” after March 28, 2013.

The more difficult question is the impact of dues-withdrawal authorizations. There are contrary NLRB decisions on whether dues and fees can be required until the authorization terminates. Complicating matters is that a federal appellate court recently held that some NLRB members were improperly appointed, which thereby makes the NLRB lack a quorum. This decision is being appealed. Thus, it is not certain which NLRB decisions are actually controlling. The most recent NLRB decision is that fees and dues can be required until the end of the authorization, but that decision was made during the period that the federal appellate court held the NLRB lacked a minimum number of members to act.

What if my collective bargaining agreement does not expire until after March 28, 2013?  Do I have to wait or can I still resign and pay less than I am currently paying?

You can still resign your union membership at any time, and you can also exercise what are known as your “Beck rights,” Your Beck rights are named after a Supreme Court case that says you do not have to pay money to your union for its political activities.

Under Federal labor law (the National Labor Relations Act or the Railway Labor Act), an employee can generally limit his or her payment to the union to “amounts related to collective bargaining, contract administration or grievance adjustment.” This amount is often fairly close to the amount a union member pays in dues and some think the process approved by the courts to determine what is “chargeable” and “nonchargeable” to the nonunion employee tilts in the unions’ favor. Click here if you are interested in asserting your Beck rights. 

How do I resign from my union?

Notify your union representative and your employer. You may do this by filling out the linked worker right-to-work questionnaire which will automatically generate a letter for you.

Make sure your resignation is in writing. It is best to send it by certified mail. You may resign from your union at any time; however, you may still have to pay union dues or agency fees if there is a collective bargaining agreement or dues check-off authorization agreement in place when the new right-to-work law goes into effect on March 28, 2013.

My union tells me that I can only resign during a certain time; is that right?

No. The Supreme Court has held that employees can resign at any time. Less certain, however, is whether dues and/or fees have to be paid until such time as the dues authorization form expires.

What if I signed an agreement where the union can deduct dues directly from my paycheck, commonly called a dues check-off authorization? If I resign after the collective bargaining agreement expires, will dues and fees still be deducted from my paycheck?

This depends on the language of the dues check-off authorization you signed. Union members often sign dues check-off authorizations. This authorizes the employer to deduct from your paycheck the money for the union dues and fees. Many of these dues check-off agreements state that the employee agrees to pay the full amount of dues or fees, whether or not they are a union member, or whether or not they leave the union.

It may be possible that the union can require you to pay at least agency fees until the dues check-off authorization expires. Many check-off authorizations contain annual revocation provisions, which can limit when you can effectively revoke your authorization even if you have resigned from the union.