Fox News Falsely Links Michigan Right-To-Work Law To Failed Ballot Initiative

Fox News host Gretchen Carlson falsely claimed that the Michigan legislature's approval of right-to-work legislation is directly linked to the failure of a ballot initiative to put collective bargaining rights in the state constitution. In fact, the two issues are not linked legislatively.

Michigan's anti-union “right-to-work” bill, which will significantly alter the way unions are financed, was signed into law on December 11. The law forbids union contracts that require workers who enjoy the benefits of a collective bargaining agreement to pay union dues, reducing the amount of money a union takes in. Carlson falsely claimed on the December 12 edition of Fox & Friends that Michigan voters  “voted on a referendum to do exactly just this -- to give people who belong to unions a free choice about whether or not they actually want to pay the dues or they don't.”

Carlson echoed her claim on the December 13 Fox & Friends, saying that “voters actually wanted what happened here.”

Contrary to Carlson's claim, the referendum and the right-to-work legislation are not linked. Michigan's Proposal 2 was a constitutional amendment that would have established the right to organize and collectively bargain in the state constitution, but the vote failed. Nearly 700,000 signatures were gathered to place the issue on the ballot.

By contrast, the right-to-work legislation was handled solely in a lame-duck legislative session that manipulated procedures in order to push the bill through the legislature in a week's time with little public deliberation. Michigan TV station Fox 17 reported:

Lawmakers decided to use a number of “vehicle bills” with much different content. Those bills had already been read and had their public hearing. They took the bills and stripped out the old language, then drastically re-wrote them, adding the right-to-work language. They bypassed the public hearing process, because the bills were already read before the right-to-work language was added.

Fox 17 also noted that 57 lawmakers who voted on the legislation will not have to face public accountability for their vote because they are term-limited, lost their elections, or are retiring. Legislators added a $1 million appropriation to the legislation, meaning that the legislation can't be repealed through a referendum under state law.