Two Republicans joined a united Democrat caucus in the Michigan House to oppose a recent vote on whether local governments in Michigan should be permitted to create "right-to-work zones." Within these proposed zones, employers would be prohibited from compelling an employee to join a union under threat of either being fired or never hired in the first place. Free-market labor analysts have repeatedly noted that there is a strong correlation between a state's economic growth and whether it provides right-to-work protections to its workers. And polling data has indicated strong public support for Michigan becoming a right-to-work state.
Senate Bill 945, sponsored by Sen. Nancy Cassis, R-Novi, is the legislation that would allow local governments to create the right-to-work zones. Though it has not yet received a vote in the Michigan Senate, that didn't stop state Rep. Tom McMillin, R-Rochester Hills, from forcing the Michigan House of Representatives to pass judgment on the bill.
On March 2, the Democrat majority that controls the Michigan House took up for consideration House Bill 5808, legislation that would expand the number of businesses getting money from Lansing. McMillin is a strong critic of Michigan government engaging in central planning of this sort, noting that the free market — rather than state bureaucrats — should be deciding who the success stories are in the Michigan economy.
He is also a strong supporter of making Michigan into a right-to-work state.
Because a Democrat-run House is not likely to consider a right-to-work measure voluntarily, due to what is generally understood as a closer affiliation with Michigan's labor union bosses, McMillin offered up a "tie-bar" amendment, linking HB 5808 to SB 945. If his amendment had been adopted, it would have placed a condition on HB 5808, preventing it from becoming law unless SB 945 was also enacted. (McMillin has developed into something of a guerrilla fighter when it comes to opposing legislation with the amendment process. See also: www.MichCapCon.com/11222.)
The Democrat majority held together and voted down McMillin's right-to-work tie-bar on a vote of 65-41.
And the Democrats were joined by Republicans Tory Rocca, R-Sterling Heights, and Ken Horn, R-Frankenmuth.
This is not the first attempt by Republicans in the House to tie-bar a right-to-work proposal to a bill favored by the Democrat majority running the Michigan House. In the fall of 2008, Rep. Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive, offered up a similar amendment. It too was defeated, 69-35. That day as well, Rocca and Horn were amongst 14 Republicans voting with the Democrat majority against the Republican-sponsored right-to-work tie-bar. (See also: www.MichCapCon.com/10312.)
Supporters of bringing right-to-work to Michigan may be able to draw some encouragement from the latest vote in the House, as fewer Republicans are now voting against the policy. The Meekhof tie-bar in 2008 was to a bill that would have made all of Michigan a right-to-work state, rather than just allowed any local government to create a specified right-to-work zone. Six of the Republicans who voted against the Meekhof right-to-work tie-bar in 2008 decided instead to vote in favor of the McMillin version in March. The other six Republicans voting against the Meekhof tie-bar left office after the 2008 election.
A 2007 analysis by Mackinac Center labor policy director Paul Kersey examined the correlation between a state's economic success and its adoption of a right-to-work law. Looking at the five-year period from 2001-2006, Kersey reported that states with right-to-work laws increased their gross state product by 18.1 percent, while states without a right-to-work law saw GSP grow by just 13.6 percent. Michigan was one of the worst non right-to-work performers, growing by just 3.4 percent.
Even Louisiana and Mississippi — two right-to-work states that saw massive economic damage due to being hit by Hurricane Katrina during the period under examination — were still able to substantially exceed the GSP growth of Michigan.
The MichiganVotes.org roll call for McMillin's right-to-work tie bar is below.
Contact information for lawmakers is available here.
The original version of this story was posted online on April 19, 2010.