This is the week that Michigan’s workers will finally be freed from forced unionization.
After decades of United Auto Workers control over the struggling American auto industry, the Michigan legislature’s passing of a right-to-work law is historic. Governor Rick Snyder (R) is expected to sign the law as early as tomorrow.
Regardless of news reports, the people of Michigan are behind this. A recent poll showed that 51 percent of Michigan voters support right-to-work. Only 41 percent are opposed. In fact, 40 percent of union households supported it. In November, Michigan voters rejected a ballot proposal that would have amended the state constitution to prevent the legislature from passing a right-to-work law and elevated union contracts above state law. The New York Times called it “a test case on enshrining the rights of unions,” and unions spent more than $23 million campaigning for the initiative. It lost by 15 points.
They’re still campaigning. Yesterday, President Obama campaigned for the labor movement in Detroit by making false claims about the law:
What we shouldn’t be doing is trying to take away your rights to bargain for better wages and working conditions. We shouldn’t be doing that. These so-called “right to work” laws, they don’t have to do with economics; they have everything to do with politics. What they’re really talking about is giving you the right to work for less money.
Those are strong words. They would be even stronger if they were true. As Heritage labor expert James Sherk explains:
Right-to-work laws prevent unions from imposing mandatory fees, giving employees the right to work without paying union dues. Otherwise, right-to-work has no effect on collective bargaining. All other negotiations continue as before.
Of course, the unions have a lot to lose. Sherk points out that “Polling shows a quarter of Michigan’s government employees would opt out of unions under a right-to-work law. Losing those members would cost Michigan’s unions more than $100 million annually.”
When workers are freed from forced unionization, many of them opt out. They have left unions in droves in Wisconsin, Idaho, and Oklahoma.
What Do Workers Gain?
But workers have so much to gain: Right-to-work would let Michigan’s workers keep that $100 million for themselves and their families. And making union dues voluntary makes union organizers less aggressive—they get less financial benefit from organizing new firms, because they cannot force workers to pay them. Union organizing attempts drop 40 percent to 50 percent after states pass a right-to-work law. That in turn attracts business investment. Employers want to know unions will leave them alone if they treat their workers well. As a result, right-to-work states have lower unemployment rates—and more manufacturing jobs.
Governor Snyder said:
If you step back and look at it, we’re losing a major competitive advantage.
Indiana has become a right to work state. I’ve looked at their pipeline, and they’ve significantly increased the number of businesses looking to come to Indiana and grow in Indiana due to this legislation.
…It’s about being pro-worker. It’s about hard-working Michiganders having the freedom to choose who they associate with….The workers should have the ultimate decision should they belong or not.
…It’s about the right thing for hard-working Michigan workers, and it’s the right thing for our economic growth.
As Sherk puts it, “Why should workers have to pay into a union for representation they don’t want? Workers should have the freedom to decide how they spend their pay.”
Right to Work Increases Jobs and Choices by James Sherk