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Right To Work: Just The Facts

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Pro-RTW demonstrators are outnumbered by anti RTW protesters.(credit WWJ/Mike Campbell, File)

Pro-RTW demonstrators are outnumbered by anti RTW protesters.(credit WWJ/Mike Campbell, File)

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DETROIT (CBS Detroit) The stakes are high as the Michigan Legislature moves to approve right to work legislation, and union protesters and Michigan State Police officers clash in Lansing.

But what exactly is right to work legislation? Here’s a synopsis.

*Right to work makes it illegal to have union shops where workers must pay dues in exchange for representation in employer disputes and collective bargaining for pay and benefits. That’s a gigantic change in Michigan where auto factories, the construction industry and public entities like school districts, city halls and public works facilities employ hundreds of thousands of workers in all-union situations. Police officers and firefighters were exempted from the Michigan legislation.

*Currently, union contracts fall into three categories: open shops, where workers can opt in or out of the union, its pay and benefits packages; agency shops, where workers can opt in or out, though even if they opt out they have to pay a reduced fee to the union to stay employed and can still call on the union for protection; and a union shop, where employers agree to hire only union members or dictate that newly hired employees will join the union within a specific time.

*Right to work eliminates all-union shops and removes the union security clause present in agency agreements that says a worker who doesn’t want to join the union can opt out, but they have to pay the union a reduced  portion of the fee. Union leaders say the legislation could weaken them to the point of extinction.

*Proponents say right to work opens the door to bringing more jobs to Michigan because the threat of union-protected hours, benefits and wage negotiations scares employers away. They also argue it’s not right to force workers to pay dues to unions that could violate their personal beliefs when funds are used to support Democratic candidates in political campaigns.

*Right to work opponents say it only attracts businesses that want to pay low wages for long hours, and eliminates a cornerstone of the American middle class. Many also say it’s a thinly veiled attempt to wrestle support, money and clout away from Democratic causes and political candidates.

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