Last week, while legislators debated in Lansing, union supporters demonstrated outside the capitol. Now that right-to-work is the law in Michigan for the public and private sectors, the demonstrations may be over, but unions have just begun their fight. (Click here to read our eAuthority on the new law.)
In the short term, for employers with expired contracts or those about to expire, unions will be motivated to reach new agreements quickly prior to the laws’ effective date or seek to extend current contracts in order to maintain union security for a longer period of time. At least initially, this may create opportunities for employers.
Unions will be pushing hard to convince employees; representation is worth the cost of dues and other fees. For employees, this could mean more pressure and possible harassment by union representatives and co-workers. For employers, it could mean an increase in grievances and charges in an effort to force quick settlements, and, perhaps even more disruptive, it could mean an increase in division and derision in your workforce.
In the longer term, we can expect legal challenges to the current law, political action to shift power in the state, and creative and alternate organizing and negotiating strategies. Now is the time for employers to review and rethink labor strategies to respond proactively to this new dynamic.
Ruthie L. Goodboe is a shareholder in the Detroit Metro office of Ogletree Deakins.