MPPS Report: One year after right-to-work legislation was enacted, local leaders have mixed views on the law change

December 18, 2013

Local government leaders in Michigan have mixed support for the state's new public sector right-to-work law, according to a University of Michigan survey. The law prohibits making union membership or support a condition of employment.

Overall, 47 percent say they support the law that went into effect last March, while 22 percent oppose it and a third are either neutral, unsure or say it doesn't apply to them.

"Michigan's local government leaders just don't see 'right-to-work' as a game-changer for their jurisdictions," said Tom Ivacko, program director at the U-M Ford School's Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy (CLOSUP). "The law's exemption for police and fire unions may limit its impact, since these are among the most common types of public sector unions in our local governments."

The poll, part of the Michigan Public Policy Survey series at CLOSUP, reports that:

  • Overall, 60 percent of Republican local leaders support the public sector right-to-work law, compared to 45 percent of Independent and 21 percent of Democratic local leaders.

  • The law's exemptions for police and fire unions are supported by 26 percent of local leaders, overall, but opposed by 33 percent.

  • Overall, local leaders from jurisdictions with public sector unions say they expect a limited impact from the right-to-work law, in terms of their governments' fiscal health, their ability to attract and retain employees, and their relationships with their local employee unions.

The study, conducted last April-June, involved surveys sent via hardcopy and the Internet to top elected and appointed officials in all counties, cities, villages and townships in Michigan. A total of 1,350 jurisdictions returned valid surveys, for a 73-percent response rate. The survey had a margin of error of 1.4 percentage points either way.

The survey results have received coverage in the Detroit Free Press, MLive, and The Detroit News.