In a stunning, lightning-fast development, Michigan became the 24th state to enact so-called "right-to-work" laws, allowing workers to opt out of paying union dues. The new measures affect both public and private workers in a state that has long been a stronghold of organized labor, according to The Associated Press (AP).
The Michigan legislature approved two bills, with one measure covering private-sector workers and the other dealing with public employees. The bills passed through both houses of the Republican-controlled legislature during a lame-duck session in less than a week. Gov. Rick Snyder signed the measures into law within hours of final passage.
The new measures prohibit requiring nonunion employees to pay union dues. Those dues go toward funding union services, such as negotiating contracts and representing workers in grievances.
Supporters say the measures give workers freedom of association. Critics say they weaken unions' ability to bargain effectively.
Michigan is the third big-labor state recently to pass legislation reducing union strength. In February, Indiana adopted right-to-work legislation. In 2011, Wisconsin passed a law curtailing bargaining rights for most state employees.
In 2012, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), 21 states considered right-to-work legislation or bills dealing with union membership. In 2011, NCSL says, 16 states considered right-to-work bills.
Right-to-work states include Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Wyoming.