Earlier this week, the Michigan State Legislature passed a bill (HB 4929) which would allow for paycheck protection of public school teachers. Paycheck protection laws prohibit public employee labor organizations from using the dues of their members for political contributions without the consent of their employees. This ensures that all political activity conducted by the union is approved by its members, protecting their basic rights of association. This bill will help to put money back into the pockets of teachers, allowing them the choice as to whether or not they wish to donate to union-sponsored political activity.

A report from the Heritage Foundation shows that paycheck protection legislation has a clear negative effect on public sector union political contributions. Union campaign donations decreased by approximately 50%. These statistics are hard to negate. When given the choice to donate to union-sponsored political activity, much fewer people chose to funnel this money to the union’s political arm showing that many unions are forcing dues-paying members to contribute to causes with which they do not necessarily agree.

There are a number of other bills moving forward in Michigan that seek to enhance worker freedom in the state. HB 5024 would increase penalties for violation of Michigan’s existing mass picketing statute and allow employers to seek legal means to stop disruptive mass picketing. Along these same lines, HB 5023 would increase penalties for illegal public sector strikes, ensuring that public employees are not wasting tax dollars in illegal labor disputes. A third bill, HB 5025 is similar to HB 4929 in that it would allow for paycheck protection to be established, yet this bill would cover all unions, not just teachers’ unions. It would require union leaders to seek annual written consent for dues deductions for purposes other than collective bargaining and grievance adjustments. A final bill, HB 5026 would allow employers to more easily hire new workers, regardless of a labor union dispute. All of these bills passed the House Oversight, Reform, and Ethics committee on January 31 and were delayed at the request of the Leadership until other bills were passed.

Michigan has taken some great steps forward in improving the level of worker freedom in the state. The 2009 Index of Worker Freedom granted Michigan a “D” because of its strong anti-worker policies. It is important that Michigan pass all of the previously mentioned bills, along with further reforms, in order to enhance employee rights in the workplace.