Michigan's Freedom to Work Law Ends in 2024
By Masud Labor Law
April 3, 2023
On March 24, 2023, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed legislation which repeals Michigan’s Freedom to Work (FTW) law. The FTW law was passed in 2013 and prohibited labor agreements from having terms forcing employees to pay union dues as a condition of employment. Stated differently, under FTW, employees did not have to choose between paying union dues or being fired, because clauses in labor agreements compelling payment of union dues were unlawful. Now that FTW has been repealed, many unionized employees will have to pay union dues to remain gainfully employed.
However, it is important to understand that FTW was not repealed with immediate effect. Rather, the repeal is not effective until ninety days after the 2023 legislative session – sometime in March 2024. Until then, FTW remains in place – meaning employees still have the right not to pay union dues.
There has been misleading information disseminated on this issue, with the obvious aim being to compel employees to pay union dues approximately one-year sooner than may legally be required. Employers should continue to apply FTW and honor the decision of employees who do not pay union dues until FTW’s repeal becomes effective next year.
Unionized employers should also know that the repeal of FTW may not automatically mean their employees must pay union dues or face termination. This is because the obligation to pay union dues as a condition of employment is a matter of negotiation and agreement between an employer and union. Many collective bargaining agreements were revised following FTW to state that the decision to pay union dues was purely voluntary. Unless and until an employer agrees to re-establish a contractual obligation to pay union dues as a condition of employment, its employees would continue to have the choice of whether to pay union dues or not.
Additionally, the repeal of FTW does not impact the public sector. Public sector employees retain the right to refuse to pay union dues as a matter of constitutional law.
If you have any questions regarding Michigan’s FTW law, ways to keep dues deductions voluntary in your workplace, or any other labor or employment related matter, please do not hesitate to contact Masud Labor Law Group.