News Story

UAW Member: Union Workers 'Need to Embrace' Right-to-Work Laws

A union worker discusses organized labor

UAW member Terry Bowman founded the group Union Conservatives in 2010 after getting fed-up with union practices and propaganda.

Bowman, a former bank manager, now works at the Rawsonville Ford Plant in Ypsilanti. He has been in the UAW for 14 years.

As a group, Union Conservatives is comprised of union members who don’t share the same “world view” that union leaders promote. They favor right-to-work laws and oppose being forced to hand over dues to unions that use the money to promote political ends with which they disagree.

Capitol Confidential conducted an interview with Bowman via telephone and email. The following are excerpts from that interview.

Q. Why should union members support right-to-work legislation?

A. Union members need to embrace right-to-work legislation because it represents a return to a worker being able to exercise their First Amendment rights of Freedom of Association. Anyone has the right to be in a union – but only if they choose to do so. To force someone into a relationship with an outside third party, simply as a condition of employment, is a violation of their First Amendment rights.

Secondly, union workers must realize that in forced-unionism states like Michigan, union officials hold and retain ultimate power. They can do whatever they want, they can perform as well or as badly as they want and workers have no recourse. Workers must, as a condition of employment, continue to financially support the activities of their union bosses. This is where I used the example of the "One Nation Working Together Rally" in Washington, D.C., where union officials rallied shoulder-to-shoulder with the Communist Party USA, The Socialist Party, and the Democratic Socialists of America. Right-to-work laws return that power back to the worker because, for the first time, their union bosses become accountable and answer for their actions. 

Thirdly, union workers need to understand that right-to-work laws make unions stronger in the long run. In forced-unionism states like Michigan, unions have no competition for the dues of their members so they have no reason to improve or pay attention to the needs of the workforce. In a right-to-work state, union officials must get better at doing what they were created to do: represent their members in the workplace

Q. How unusual are union members who share your beliefs about right-to-work issues?

A. Not as unusual as union officials want you to believe. I personally have found wide support from union workers all over Michigan for right-to-work laws. You can be pro-union, and favor right-to-work at the same time. A Cap-Con article shows us that in an internal National Education Association survey revealed that its union membership in Michigan includes many more conservatives than is commonly perceived.

Q. How will Michigan be affected by Indiana becoming a right-to-work state?

A. If Indiana becomes a right-to-work state and Michigan does not, Michigan - especially the western part of the state - will bleed jobs into Indiana. All things being equal, Indiana is already pulling jobs from Michigan, and this could be devastating. Gov. Rick Snyder keeps saying that the issue is too divisive…however he will have to explain to the families of Michiganders who have lost their jobs to Indiana that he knows best.

Secondly, I hope that it spurs Michigan to quickly and unhesitatingly pass a right-to-work bill.

Q. To what extent do you believe unions have become primarily interested in just making sure they can keep collecting dues?

A. Unfortunately, I believe it is the main reason why union leaders indoctrinate their workers into believing that right-to-work laws are anti-union. We know, from honest study, that unions are alive and strong in right-to-work states, and economically, right-to-work states excel in comparison to forced unionism states. Forced dues is the lifeblood of unions who wish to use that money for the advancement of one political party that they know only half of their membership supports.

Q. Do you think times have changed regarding the role unions play? If so, how have they changed?

A. Without a doubt, unions have drastically changed. Unions were originally created to do one thing: represent their workers within the boundaries of the workplace. Over the years, union bosses have become arrogant because they know they can force workers to financially support them. This arrogance, along with their relationships with one political party, has led them to believe that they have a much greater role in society than they actually do. Unions are not agents of social change in any capacity because they are ill-equipped to be so. Because of this arrogance, and their political affiliations, unions use their forced dues and power to infiltrate into social issues that they have no business getting involved in.

A great example is the fact that the Service Employees International Union has spent millions of forced union dues to push for passage of the DREAM Act. Unions used to fight against illegal immigration because it hurt the job market. Now, however, the Democrat Party has identified with the desire to be soft on illegal immigration, so suddenly unions are all for amnesty and giving these people the ability to vote for Democrats.

Q. Do you think some union leaders are just interested in keeping things going until it's time for them to retire?

A. Absolutely, we have seen this time and time again. Union officials have come far by ‘sucking up’ to those above them in the hierarchy, and they are waiting for their turn. Many receive very lucrative retirement packages, even as they complain about corporate CEOs.  Most of the membership realizes this and accepts it as just something they have to deal with.  Many of the union officials realize that they have lost public support and that unions, especially in the private sector, are dying. Bob King, head of the UAW said this past summer that if the UAW does not find a way to organize the ‘transplants’, (foreign-based auto companies in the U.S.) he doesn’t see much of a future for the UAW. I agree.

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.