How the right-to-work law affects you and your workplace

LANSING, Mich. (WXYZ) - Even though their protests in Lansing this past December failed to stop right-to-work from happening, many of the unions across the state succeeded in last minute negotiations to extend their contracts.

The right-to-work law took effect Thursday.

"Any contract that is extended or negotiated after tomorrow cannot lawfully contain a union security provision anymore," said labor and employment attorney Gary Klotz. 

That provision allows unions to collect dues from union members. Once contracts expire, members can choose to opt out of the union and stop paying dues.

 Klotz says those who opt out of the union need to be careful and read the fine print with the check-off they signed.

"That may let them opt out immediately and there may be a time delay for them to opt out. It could be up to a year later," said Klotz. He also said that union members cannot opt out of the union until after contracts expire - otherwise they could be fired for not following union law.

The legal expertise given by Klotz is something that unions in Michigan never thought they would be discussing.

"I think it's a sad day for the state of Michigan," said Keith Johnson. 

Johnson is president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers. This past Monday DFT extended their contract with the city's school district for four more years. After that time, teachers who choose not to join the union will lose certain insurance protection against lawsuits.

"You go to school, you learn a marketable skill in order to prevent yourself from being arbitrarily or capriciously terminated or disciplined and you have union rights that give you some protection," said Johnson.

Those who helped push right-to-work through the legislature argue the new law will create more jobs and make Michigan more competitive in the business world.

"Under Governor Snyder's leadership we have really done a great job moving Michigan along to continue removing much of the uncertainty in investing in Michigan," said State Rep. Mike Shirkey (R) Clarklake.

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