Gretchen Whitmer, governor of Michigan, signed legislation on Friday that repealed the state's right-to-work law. File Photo by Andrew Harrer/UPI | License Photo
March 24 (UPI) -- Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer repealed the state's right-to-work law on Friday, handing a major victory to labor unions.
Michigan became the first state in more than half a century to repeal a right-to-work law as Whitmer officially signed legislation passed by the Democratic-controlled legislature.
Whitmer also reinstated a law that mandates union-level wages and benefits for state-funded construction projects.
"Today, we are coming together to restore workers' rights, protect Michiganders on the job, and grow Michigan's middle class," Whitmer said in a statement, according to the Detroit Free Press. "Michigan workers are the most talented and hard-working in the world and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect."
Friday's repeal of the state's right-to-work law is the first since Indiana did so in 1965, although they passed a right-to-work law again in 2012.
"For us, being the home of labor and getting attacked 10 years ago was a gut punch to workers across Michigan," state Sen. Darrin Camilleri, the sponsor of MI SB34 (23R), told POLITICO. "We are a state so steeped in union activism and union history that we knew this was a policy that our constituents wanted for the last 10 years as well."
When the right-to-work law was passed in 2012, 11% of workers were in a union, compared to just 9% now.
The new law will go into effect after 90 days, when the legislative session ends.
Republicans have argued that repealing the law would make it harder for the state to attract businesses.
"Gov. Whitmer and Democrats have hurt Michigan's ability to compete to attract high-paying careers," said House Republican Leader Matt Hall, R-Richland Township in a statement. "Without right-to-work, businesses will find more competitive states for their manufacturing plants and research and development facilities, and workers and careers will drift away."