National Conference on Public Employee Retirement Systems

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How Organized Labor in Michigan is Driving Historic Change

  • By: admin
  • On: 03/29/2023 09:13:18
  • In: News
  • Comments: 0

Last month, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed two key bills into law. 

By Bridget Early, Director of Membership and Strategic Alliances, NCPERS

Last month, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed two key bills into law. One law will phase out the tax levied by the state on retirement income, and the second repeals the state's “right-to-work” law. Both bills originated at a time when working men and women, especially those in labor unions, were under constant attack by Lansing lawmakers.

Michigan, and several other states, saw shifts in legislative balances after the 2010 elections, leaving anti-worker policymakers in charge. Workers throughout the country have been battling efforts to strip their power to advocate for better workplace conditions, with notable fights occurring in Wisconsin, Ohio, and Michigan. These anti-worker laws aimed to destroy labor unions by taking away workers ability to bargain collectively for their contracts. Other laws, such as taxing retirement income, were lawmakers' solution to increase revenue to the state coffers off the backs of working families. 

Michigan's repeal of the “right-to-work” law is significant. Driven largely by the work of organized labor that changed the landscape of Lansing, this marks the first repeal of this type of law in the United States in nearly six decades. Labor unions often are the last line of defense against bills aimed at the working class. This is particularly true when it comes to preserving retirement security at the state and local levels. Labor unions' efforts to educate policymakers and activate their members can help ensure dignity in retirement for public employees.


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