Proos sponsors right-to-work zone bill

LANSING – State Sen. John Proos introduced legislation Wednesday to allow Michigan counties and municipalities to create right-to-work zones within their boundaries.

“This is about removing barriers to competition, attracting new businesses to Michigan and creating jobs. Making Michigan the first state in the Great Lakes region with a right-to-work law would give us a competitive advantage for new investment and jobs,” said Proos, R-St. Joseph. “Michigan has lost 57 percent of its auto industry jobs since 2002, and many of those jobs went to right-to-work states. This reform would allow Michigan to explore the possible benefits of right-to-work, while placing economic development decisions in the hands of those who will be affected most – our local communities.”

Proos’ legislation, Senate Bill 120, would allow two avenues by which a right-to-work zone could be established: either by approval of a measure by a local governing body, or by adoption of a measure initiated by the people residing within a county or municipality.

“As chair of the House Republican Strategic Task Force on Jobs last session, I heard from many Michigan job providers and economic development officials who said right-to-work reform would make the state more competitive,” Proos said. “For example, Michigan lost a bid in 2006 for a new KIA manufacturing plant – and its 4,500 jobs – to Georgia in part because of that state’s right-to-work status.”

A September 2010 study by Grand Valley State University economist Hari Singh looked at data from both sides of the issue.  His conclusion was that if Michigan had adopted right-to-work status in 1965, the state today would have up to 60,000 more automobile industry jobs.

“My initiative would not ban unions.  It would allow local governments to prohibit employers from requiring a worker to be a member of a union as a condition of their employment,” Proos said.  “As Michigan continues to have one of the nation’s worst unemployment rates, we must create a climate for job growth that is more attractive than other states in the nation.”

Twenty-two states have a right-to-work law that gives employees the decision of whether or not to join a labor union. In those states the average rate of unemployment is around 8 percent.

“Right-to-work laws are founded in the Constitutional right of freedom of association and the American ideal of the free market,” said Proos. “Giving our local communities the option to create right-to-work zones would be a huge step forward toward creating jobs by making Michigan truly open for business.”

SB 120 has been referred to the Senate Economic Development Committee for consideration.