Michigan’s New Union-Busting Law Will Undermine Workers’ Health Benefits

Michigan’s Gov. Rick Snyder (R) has incited a political firestorm over the controversial anti-union “right-to-work” law that he signed this week. That bill has significant implications for labor rights, particularly for Michigan’s middle class, and may threaten the health care benefits that union workers receive through their collective bargaining abilities.

According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI), union workers have much better access to health insurance than their non-union counterparts. In 2005, a full 86 percent of unionized workers had access to health insurance, compared to 59.5 percent of non-union workers:

The report goes on to say that while non-union workers enjoy more health coverage as dependents, unionized workers have a significantly lower uninsurance rate as a consequence of their ability to negotiate with employers. That bargaining power is pretty significant in an era in which employers increasingly try to push the cost of essential benefits such as health care onto their workers. For some context, the Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that Michigan adults have an uninsurance rate of 18 percent.

In fact, a Center for American Progress report estimated that if the states that don’t currently have right-to-work laws lowered their benefit levels to those in anti-union states, 2 million fewer workers would receive health insurance benefits.