The National Right to Work Foundation has pressed 127 cases in Michigan since 2013, making up nearly 10 percent of all open cases at any given time and averaging to an extra five cases a year when compared to other states.
The foundation, which acts as an advocate for those seeking litigation against unions, has pressed an average of 16 lawsuits in each state and territory since 2013, according to numbers released by the foundation to Battleground State News. By comparison, the foundation has pressed 127 cases in Michigan alone since then, with 20 cases currently open. This means that, on average, an extra five cases are pressed each year in Michigan — around 21 cases per year.
Lawsuits can represent one person or multiple people.
This number is due in part to an “attitude problem” among union officials in Michigan, according to Patrick Semmens, the vice-president of the foundation.
“Union officials won’t accept that union dues are supposed to be voluntary,” he said.
The Right to Work law — which makes union membership voluntary, meaning industries cannot require union membership as terms of employment — was passed in Michigan in 2012. Currently, 27 states have passed similar laws.
Michigan currently has 20 open cases. The number is bested only by California, which currently has 21 open cases. The next-highest after Michigan are Ohio and Washington, which both have 10 open cases.
No breakdown by industry is currently available, according to a foundation spokesperson.
Semmens said the foundation has roughly 200 open cases at any given time, meaning Michigan’s cases make up around 10 percent of ongoing lawsuits.
Semmens said a high number of Michigan cases revolve around unions attempting to charge dues they are not legally entitled to or taking punitive action against former union members after resignation.
“When they can’t force people to pay, they look for other retaliatory things they can do,” Semmens said, adding that can mean interfering with a hiring process or promotion.
This was the case in the lawsuit the foundation announced earlier this week. The lawsuit is being pressed against the United Auto Workers union after union officials admitted to interfering with an interview and swaying it toward a different employee who had not resigned from the union.
The United Auto Workers union is currently entering the sixth day on strike against General Motors.
“Big labor was very powerful in Michigan,” Semmens said, “and they still are.”
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Jordyn Pair is a reporter for Battleground State News and The Michigan Star. Follow her on Twitter at @JordynPair. Email her at [email protected]