GRAND RAPIDS, MI — Michigan’s controversial right-to-work law goes into effect next month. We asked a panel of attorneys to talk about what the law means for both workers and businesses during a Live Chat on Thursday. Some of their answers are highlighted below:
Question: If members stop paying union dues, can the union take any action against them?
Attorney Mary Ann Cartwright: Depends on when their current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires. If the current agreement does not expire on or before March 28th the member is required to comply and pay dues. The employee remains subject to the CBA until it expires. If the Agreement is extended, amended or renewed after March 28th, the union cannot take any action if the member quits paying dues.
Question: Are businesses allowed to encourage people to leave the union? Can management play any role in this?
Attorney John Lichtenberg: The National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”) (or the equivalent state act if the NLRA is not applicable to their business) still governs what an employer may discuss with its employees regarding union representation. While Michigan employers may provide factual and accurate information regarding unions to their employees, employers are still prohibited from enticing or encouraging employees to resign their union membership. Employers are still subject to unfair labor charges if they engage in communication that is deemed to interfere with an employee’s right to unionize. And employers whose employees are presently represented by a union remain obligated to bargain in good faith with the union concerning the hours, wages, benefits and other terms and conditions of employment of the employees within the bargaining unit represented by the union.
Question: What are your suggestions for businesses on how to comply with the right-to-work law?
Attorney Mary Tabin: I’m sure employees will have a lot of questions regarding the right to work law for their employers. As John indicated in a previous answer, the NLRA still governs what an employer may or may not discuss with its employees regarding union representation. Those restrictions are not changed by the new Right to Work law. For example, employers may not solicit or encourage employees to resign their union membership but employers may still provide accurate and factual information to its employees regarding unions. If an employer interferes with an employee’s right to unionize, employers will still be subject to unfair labor charges under the NLRA.
Question: What happens to collective bargaining agreements? How will wages be affected?
Attorney James Feeny: Current collective bargaining agreements will remain in effect, and thusly the wages will remain the same. So long as a union continues to represent employees, the employer will be required to bargain wages with the union.
Read the entire conversation here.