Public-Sector Worker Frequently Asked Questions

When did right-to-work become law?

March 28, 2013.

What public sector employees does right-to-work apply to?

Right-to-work applies to state civil service employees and all local government employees (teachers, county employees, etc.) aside from police and firefighters.

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.

But, before right-to-work passed, 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 goes into effect, 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 contracts 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 for all employees in the collective bargaining unit, whether 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. Under right-to-work, however, 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 on 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. Currently, there is a MERC decision limiting public employees’ ability to exercise their constitutional right to prevent the union from spending the employees’ money for political purposes. In essence, MERC holds that an employee that signed a dues authorization form must first withdraw membership from the union during a resignation period (the MEA’s resignation period is in August) before being allowed to lower the amount paid to the union.

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 “Abood rights.” Your Abood 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 Abood an employee can generally limit his or her payment to the union to “amounts related to collective bargaining, contract administration or grievance adjustment.”

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?

This is unclear. There is no state court decision indicating that an employee can resign at any time, but there is a decision that payments for dues and fees must continue until the employee withdraws from the union during a window period.

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?

Probably. 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. We encourage you to contact the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation at 989-631-0900 or if you have a question about your specific dues check-off authorization.