Many people confuse Right-to-Work laws with the Employment at Will concept. Employment at Will is a common law concept standing for some variation of the rule that either the employee or the employer can terminate employment at any time for any reason, with or without notice. Right-to-Work laws prohibit a Union from including in the collective bargaining agreement a provision making it a condition of work that an employee join the union (and pay dues) or be terminated. When employees don’t have to join and pay dues, they often do not do so.
When Wisconsin passed its much attacked public employer legislation, public sector union members quit paying dues in droves.
There are a lot of ripple effects to this legislation. Because Right-to-Work laws have some limiting effect on union organization, new businesses admit that they may choose a state based in part on its Right-to-Work status, which has certainly benefitted the South. Some pundits speculate that Michigan’s move will bring pressure on Ohio to pass similar legislation because neighboring Indiana passed a Right-to-Work law and is touting the law as another reason to locate business in Indiana.
There are limits to the new Michigan law. As with the recent Indiana right-to-work law, the Michigan law applies only to agreements that take effect or are extended or renewed after the effective date of the Act. For future contracts, however, the impact will be substantial: public- and private-sector employees in the state will no longer have to pay union dues, or their equivalent, to hold certain jobs, and it will be unlawful for a collective bargaining agreement to include union-shop or mandatory dues check-off arrangements.
We have pasted an Alert providing more detail at the Fisher & Phillips LLP website: http://www.laborlawyers.com/shownews.aspx?Show=20281