By Chris Gautz
December 16, 2012
Following the warp speed with which right-to-work legislation was pushed and signed into law last week in Lansing, Michigan employers and employees are struggling to understand just what the legislative scramble will mean for them....
Questions and answers on right-to-work• When does the law take effect?
• When can an employee stop paying union fees?
After a contract expires after the law takes effect. But if a worker signed an authorization card with the union that specifies a specific date, then likely only at that point.
• How much are union dues, typically?
The amount varies greatly between unions and the type of work being done. But a general rule of thumb is that it costs two hours of a base wage per month.
• How much of the state's workforce is unionized?
In 2011, 17.5 percent of workers in the state were union members, up from 16.5 percent in 2010.
• Why do unions have to represent grievances of nonmembers who opt out of paying dues?
In 1935, the National Labor Relations Act was passed, protecting rights of employees in the private sector, thus protecting the creation of unions.
However, by the 1940s, racial tension between unions and individuals in bargaining units boiled over, leading to the 1944 U.S. Supreme Court decision leading to "duty of fair representation" amendment to the NLRA.
In the case Steele v. Louisville & N.R.R. (Nashville Railroad), the Supreme Court ruled against a white employees union that was bargaining to abolish jobs held by black employees. The court ruled that a bargaining group has a statutory obligation to represent each individual fairly in the bargaining unit.
• What kinds of workers are exempt from right-to-work?
Firefighters; local and state law enforcement; those represented by federal unions; agricultural workers; domestic workers (such as nannies or butlers); workers employed by a parent or spouse; employees protected by the Railway Labor Act (also includes airline employees, some types of transportation workers); and those employed as an executive or supervisor.
• Does the law apply to state employees?
There is disagreement among experts and political officials regarding whether right-to-work legislation applies. Attorney General Bill Schuette says he believes it does; union leaders say the Civil Service Commission has authority over wages and benefits.