SWM Regional Chamber urges Michigan legislature to preserve Right to Work, prevailing wage laws

Published 2:55 pm Wednesday, March 8, 2023

LANSING — The Southwest Michigan Regional Chamber is voicing their steadfast opposition to House Bills 4004, 4005, and 4007 of 2023, which would repeal the state’s Right to Work law and reinstate Michigan’s prevailing wage law. 

The series of bills passed the House Labor Committee this morning and are expected to move to the House floor for passage this afternoon, delivering on an early promise by Democrats who took control of both chambers in January.

The current Right to Work law ensures that employees in Michigan have the right to choose whether or not they want to join a union or pay union dues as a condition of employment. This law has been a critical factor in attracting new businesses and investments to Michigan, which has led to economic growth and job creation throughout the state.

“Repealing the Right to Work law would be a serious mistake that would harm Michigan’s economy, workers, and businesses,” said Regional Chamber President & CEO, Arthur Havlicek. “It would limit workers’ freedom to choose by forcing them to pay union dues, even if they do not support the union’s agenda. This would make Michigan a less attractive place for businesses to invest and create jobs, something our community will unfortunately have a front-row seat to as a result of our proximity to a neighboring Right to Work state like Indiana.”

“Furthermore, the repeal of the Right to Work law would hurt small businesses, which are the backbone of Michigan’s economy,” Havlicek continued. “Small business owners are already struggling to keep their doors open due to rising costs, worker shortages, and looming recession. Forcing them to pay union dues would only add to their financial burden.”

“The primary purpose of economic development is to retain and attract businesses, which creates opportunity for our residents in the form of well-paying jobs,” said Cornerstone Alliance President & CEO, Rob Cleveland, CEcD. “Our community, and the state of Michigan, are competing on a global scale for new jobs, and the competition is more intense than at any time in history. Berrien County is unique due to our status as a border county, and our economy is driven by advanced manufacturing. Repealing Right to Work will jeopardize the ability of our employers to attract and recruit talent, as it ultimately eliminates a worker’s right to choose.”

“What legislators in Lansing fail to recognize is that these types of changes disproportionately impact Berrien County and other border communities, due to our adjacency to states that have Right to Work laws in place,” Cleveland added.

Key takeaways from a recent Small Business Association of Michigan survey were that more than 74 percent of survey respondents oppose repealing Michigan’s Right to Work laws and 64 percent oppose reinstating prevailing wage laws in the state. A larger SurveyUSA today survey from November of 2022 supported that conclusion, finding 74% of voters also identify as pro-Right-to-Work.

The Regional Chamber is also vocally opposing efforts to reinstate Michigan’s Prevailing Wage law, which was repealed in 2018.

The Prevailing Wage law required that construction workers on publicly funded projects be paid union-level wages and benefits, regardless of their individual skill level or productivity. This law drove up the cost of public construction projects and made it more difficult for small businesses and non-union contractors to compete for public contracts.

“Reinstating Prevailing Wage would be another step backwards for Michigan’s economy, harming workers, businesses, and taxpayers alike,” said Havlicek. “This law would make it more difficult for businesses to compete for public contracts which then increases the cost of public construction projects. This in turn limits the number of projects that can be funded, thereby reducing the amount of money available for other important public services.”

Havlicek said his organization has great working relationships with unions in our community and that it generally supports their efforts and underlying role in the labor supply-chain, noting the position they’ve taken on this specific legislation is simply pro-choice and pro-competition.

 “The Southwest Michigan Regional Chamber of Commerce is committed to supporting policies that promote economic growth, job creation, and worker freedom,” concluded Havlicek. “We call on Michigan lawmakers to preserve existing Right to Work and Prevailing Wage policies and to instead focus on promoting policies that support our region’s businesses and workers and that make our state a more competitive place for business investment and talent attraction.”