Can Michigan Become a Right-to-Work State?
Some economists, such as the University of Michigan's Don Grimes, believe that if the state wants to compete for manufacturing jobs nationwide, right-to-work laws have to be considered.
There are 22 states that have right-to-work laws that allow employees to decide whether to join a union. Michigan has a union shop provision allowing employers and unions to negotiate rules that mandate employees join a union or pay union dues and fees.
Three Mackinac Center for Public Policy experts talk about the possibility of Michigan enacting right-to-work legislation after the November elections.
Jack McHugh, senior legislative analyst, Mackinac Center for Public Policy:
In addition to a massive voter education campaign, any successful workplace freedom initiative would require a population that has learned to dismiss the demagoguery of self-serving special interests who benefit from the status quo.
For example, the Michigan Education Association and other government employee unions would almost certainly use all the vast (taxpayer-provided) resources at their command to protect their lucrative monopolies — by any means necessary. The bosses of industrial and commercial unions will likewise defend their cushy positions with an all-out war on the initiative and its backers, financing this with coerced dues money that current law allows them to extract from workers.
At some point — and we may be getting close — the public will recognize these attacks and disinformation as merely the cynical manipulations of a narrow class of self-serving reactionaries out to protect their privileges at the expense of taxpayers and society in general.
Paul Kersey, director of labor policy, Mackinac Center for Public Policy:
While there's substantial and growing support among the general public, most elected officials in this state are still leery of the topic. Unions in this state remain well-financed, with millions of dollars in mandatory dues that they can and have redirected into politics.
Any right-to-work drive, whether in the legislature or in a referendum, will confront a union disinformation campaign of Deepwater Horizon proportions, and to counteract that, we will need an massive voter education campaign. Basically, we need a population where 70 percent of the population understands the fundamentals of the issue enough that when the unions run their propaganda they will see through it consistently and instantaneously.
We've made progress. Poll after poll has shown that a solid majority supports RTW in principle, and most Michigan residents understand that the unions have become a destructive force. But its not clear we're there yet.
That's not to say that there isn't room for action in Lansing. Having hearings on a bill would focus public education on the issue, and a creative information campaign could use that as a springboard. We need leadership to step up and take on the challenge. But we also need to be patient.
Ken Braun, managing editor, Michigan Capitol Confidential:
We have double-digit unemployment and those private-sector union jobs have been fleeing the state in droves for years. We can no longer afford the cost of the public-sector unionized workforce that we have (as if we ever could), and the condition of our state budget and economy shows it.
Along with overblown tax, spending and regulatory policies, Michigan's mandatory unionization is just one more poison pill for the economy to swallow. Keep choking down this toxic brew for long enough, and this will become a right-to-work state simply because there really won't be any union jobs left to worry about.
Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.