Michigan lawmakers on edge of killing 'right to work' after Senate passes it Tuesday

The Michigan Senate voted on Tuesday to restore the prevailing wage and repeal right to work, the 2012 law unpopular with labor unions in the state.

Republican lawmakers passed right to work during the lame duck session of the legislature and it was hastily signed into law by then-governor Rick Snyder. It has been a sore subject for unions throughout the state ever since as membership to those associations has fallen by about 40,000.

"What right to work is designed to do is suppress workers," Michigan AFL-CIO president Ron Bieber said.

Republicans, like former Secretary of State and current State Senator Ruth Johnson, say right to work has been a positive for the state.

"The people of Michigan - of all backgrounds - strongly oppose this bill. Right to work laws have made our state more competitive," Johnson said Tuesday during the vote.

In the past 12 years, right to work has grown by 6.4%, she said, and it has been good for working families.

"The people of our state should have a right to determine for themselves whether it's in their best interest to join the union or not -- not the government," Johnson said.

Democrats disagree and say right to work seeks to bust unions by forcing them to represent workers who don't pay dues. They say right to work also drives down wages while this new legislation reinstates a prevailing wage for state projects.

"Prevailing wage insures quality and safety in public construction projects and we want that. We want our roads, our bridges, our schools to be built right. To be built right the first time with quality trained workers who can ensure public safety and public quality," Bieber said.

State Senator Darrin Camilleri introduced the bill to repeal right to work. Another one already passed the house and now they will work on a final version to send to governor Gretchen Whitmer.

"Restoring workers' rights is the foundation of our work. We know that workers build our economy in Michigan and it's important we insure they have every right to collectively bargain at their workplaces and that we balance the playing field between workers and big corporations," Camilleri said. "We can show the world that we protect workers and can work with business to attract the jobs of the future all at the same time - because that's the way that it should work."