Rush Before Right to Work

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The Lansing School District approved contracts with four employee unions the day before the Right-to-Work law kicked in. Workers represented include classroom assistants and bus drivers and just last week, administration ratified a five-year agreement with the teachers' union.

"There will not be freeloading for the Lansing School District for at least five years because we ratified the five-year contract," said Patti Seidl, president of the Lansing Schools Education Association.

According to the Mackinac Center, more than 40 employers across the state approved new contracts, including Kroger, Sparrow, the Lansing School District, Waverly Community Schools and Wayne State University.

"When the contract comes to an end, at that point they may very well feel that they can strengthen themselves over that period to get ready for that, whereas they might feel that currently if it was immediate, it could have detrimental effects on them," said John Beck, MSU Associate Professor of Labor Relations.

By law, those with effective contracts are free from Right-to-Work rules until those agreements expire and unions can still mandate employees to pay dues. However, Prof. Beck says the environment in union shops may change as union membership becomes voluntary.

"I think that there will be greater attention paid to the involvement of union members by unions, to the voice of the common rank and file member," said Prof. Beck.

As for the teachers' union in Lansing, they've already spent months trying to maintain support from members and they have even bigger hopes to use their five-year breather to change state policy.

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