Monroe is Central to Michigan’s Right-to-Work Legislative Fight
by Steven Meyer
For over 12 years, lawmakers from Monroe have led the start and end to Michigan’s anti-labor, “Right-to-Work” laws. In 2011, the first day of the congressional term and of Republican lawmaker from Monroe, Dale Zorn’s career, he cosponsored a bill to hurt organized workers (HB 4003)1. That bill was signed into law amidst massive citizen protests in 2012. In January, on the first day of the current congressional term and of Democratic lawmaker from Monroe, Reggie Miller’s career, she cosponsored a bill to restore organized workers’ rights (HB 4004)2.
Randy Richardville of Monroe was Michigan’s Senate Majority Leader in 2012, and spent years with Governor Snyder opposing Right-to-Work bills as too extreme3. However, after their party lost 4 Senate seats in the 2012 election, and amidst pressure from lobbyists4, Richardville and Snyder flip-flopped and rushed the bill into law during that December “Lame Duck” period.
Every state that has enacted “Right-to-Work” laws has lower wages5, and lower voter turnouts6 than states without such laws. Right-to-Work first emerged in 1947 southern states as part of a series of racist Jim Crow segregation laws to stop white and black workers from organizing together7. Those laws became the template for other states like Michigan in 2012. Studies have proven that white workers who are members of unions feel less racial greivances8, so notice how Republican messaging increasingly stoked more white racial grievances as they enacted laws to destroy labor unions. In Monroe we saw that starkly on April 24, 2020 when Dale Zorn, who cosponsored the Right-to-Work legislation in Michigan wore a Confederate Flag mask onto the chamber floor of the State Senate9. In 2022 Dale Zorn fled Monroe to campaign in the more rural neighboring Lenawee County where he won the Republican primary by a mere 8 votes10, and is now back in the State legislature.
1: Michigan Legislative Record of HB 4003 – Cosponsored by Dale Zorn (2011): http://legislature.mi.gov/doc.aspx?2011-HB-4003
2: Michigan Legislative Record of HB 4004 – Cosponsored by Reggie Miller (2023): http://legislature.mi.gov/doc.aspx?2023-HB-4004
3: Snyder and Richardville originally opposed Right-to-Work legislation – Article by Bridge Michigan (2012): https://www.bridgemi.com/business-watch/right-work-sparks-political-frenzy
4: How Dick DeVos & Lobbyists Pressured Passage of Right-to-Work Legislation – Study by Michigan State University (2015): http://ippsr.msu.edu/research/how-michigan-became-right-work-state-role-money-and-politics
5: Lower Wages in Right to Work States – Article by the Economic Policy Institute (2015): https://www.epi.org/publication/right-to-work-states-have-lower-wages/
6: Lower Voter Turnout in Right to Work States – Study by Boston and Columbia University (2018): https://www.nber.org/system/files/working_papers/w24259/revisions/w24259.rev0.pdf
7: The Racist History of Right to Work Laws – Article in Dissent Magazine (2012): https://www.dissentmagazine.org/online_articles/the-ugly-racial-history-of-right-to-work
8: White Workers with Union memberships feel less racial resentment – Study by Princeton & Washington University (2020): https://scholar.princeton.edu/sites/default/files/pfrymer/files/ajps12537_rev.pdf
9: Dale Zorn Lied to reporters about his Confederate Flag mask – WLNS News (April 24, 2020): https://www.wlns.com/news/local-news/it-was-not-a-confederate-flag-state-senator-explains-questionable-mask/
10: Official Dale Zorn Primary Election Results – Lenawee County Clerk (2022): https://www.electionlenawee.com/past-election-results/2022/