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Grand Rapids Community College faculty leaders say Michigan's right-to-work law will reduce union membership

Fred van Hartesveldt, president of Grand Rapids CC faculty association

Union leaders at two Grand Rapids-area colleges expect Michigan’s new right-to-work law to thin their ranks, but by how much remains to be seen.

“It’s definitely going to affect us like everybody else,” said Fred van Hartesveldt, president of Grand Rapids Community College’s faculty association, which consists of about 250 full-time instructors and 600 adjuncts. “We’re only beginning to think about what it means for us.”

Michigan becomes the 24th right to work state in the nation under legislation signed last week by Gov. Rick Snyder. Fiercely opposed by Democrats and organized labor, the legislation prohibits requiring workers to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment.

Van Hartesveldt estimated GRCC’s faculty association could lose anywhere from 30 to 40 percent of its members when the legislation goes into at the end of March. Although, he said the drop might not be that severe because the faculty association’s dues are relatively modest.

“We’re going to feel it in dues,” he said.

About 12,000 demonstrators descended on the State Capitol last week as the governor prepared to sign the legislation, pushed through by the Republican-controlled state Legislature in a lame duck session.
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