(The Center Square) – The Michigan House on Tuesday voted to repeal right-to-work, reinstate the prevailing wage, and trash the state’s A-F grading system for public schools.
The Democrat-dominated House approved Senate Bill 34 on a vote of 65-52. The bill aims to allow unions to require workers to pay dues to a labor organization as a condition of obtaining or continuing employment. The Senate approved the bill last week to repeal the policy enacted in 2012 by former Republican Gov. Rick Snyder.
The bill would also allocate $1 million to the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity.
Democrats have cited a paper from The National Bureau of Economic Research reporting that right-to-work laws are associated with lower wages and lower unionization rates. They say workers in states without right-to-work laws make $11,747 more annually.
If Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signs the bill, which is expected, Michigan will be the first state to repeal right-to-work laws and restore collective bargaining rights since 1958. Whitmer will also break her 2018 campaign promise to veto all referendum-proof legislation, meaning that an allocated dollar amount blocks voters from approving or rejecting laws enacted by the Legislature, known as a referendum.
The House also passed Senate Bill 6 on a vote of 56-52, sponsored by Sen. Veronica Klinefelt, D-Eastpointe, which would restore the state’s prevailing wage law, requiring Michigan to pay wages that must equal or exceed local union rates.
Rep. Donni Steele, R-Orion Twp, said the bill would overcharge taxpayers for public construction projects.
“The prevailing wage system is highly burdensome and onerous for many contractors to comply with because the wages vary between local jurisdictions and rate schedules do not often line up with nonunion contractor job classification,” Steele said. “This means that fixing the roads in the areas of my district will carry different costs compared to other areas.”
Rep. Abraham Aiyash, D-Hamtramck, said the bill would simply pay workers a “living wage” and what they’re worth.
The House voted 63-45 on House Bill 4166, which seeks to trash Michigan’s A-F grading system for public schools.
Bill sponsor Rep. Matt Koleszar, D-Plymouth, said the grading system is too focused on standardized testing and confuses families trying to understand how a school is performing.
HB 4116 aims to repeal the requirement that the Michigan Department of Education assigns letter grades and rankings to public schools, compile lists of the lowest-performing schools as determined through those grades and rankings, and implement accountability measures for schools determined to be in the bottom 5% of schools.
Rep. Gina Johnson, R-district 78, voted against the bill. Johnson said during the 2021-2022 school year, 704 Michigan schools received a D or F in proficiency, and for legitimate reasons.
“This bill removes the tools that we use to keep schools transparent, rush to help them back on track, and ensure we’re doing right by our kids,” Johnson said on the House floor.
The House voted 57-51 on HB 4288, which aims to remove references to a repealed section of the Revised School Code that affected how districts designated as low performing under state metrics engaged in collective bargaining and entered into collective bargaining agreements.