News Story

Most Michigan Voters Think Right-to-Work Is a Winner

Overwhelming support for choice in unionization

A majority of Michigan voters support right-to-work, according to multiple polls done in the state over the past few years.

Earlier this month, Lansing-based Marketing Resource Group released the most recent polling result on right-to-work in Michigan. The survey, commissioned by Inside Michigan Politics, showed that 58 percent of likely voters support right-to-work. Opposition among Michigan voters participating in the survey was at 37 percent.

A right-to-work law would guarantee that no one can be forced as as condiditon of employement to join a union or have to pay dues or a fee to cover the costs associated with a union bargaining on behalf of its members.

The Marketing Resource Group poll came out shortly after an East Lansing-based Mitchell Research and Communications Inc. poll showed virtually the same result. According to the Mitchell Research poll, 57 percent of likely voters support a right-to-work law, with 35 percent of respondents registering some level of opposition.

The Mitchell Research poll results, released on March 6, were from a survey commissioned by the National Federation of Independent Business and the Associated  Builders and Contractors of Michigan.

According to the Mitchell Research poll, 41 percent of the likely voters surveyed who supported right-to-work said they strongly supported it. Among those who opposed to it, only 26 percent said they were strongly opposed. 

A coalition of unions are doing a petition drive to put a proposal on the November ballot that would constitutionally prevent Michigan from becoming a right-to-work state. When the proposal was first announced it was specifically identified as anti-right-to-work. However, when the petition language was unveiled, the term right-to-work was conspicuously absent.

Mitchell Research Chairman Steve Mitchell said he thinks that exclusion was intentional because "right-to-work" polls so favorably.

“They know that right-to-work is popular. I remember working on term limits back in 1992. Those opposing term limits were aware that the terminology 'term limits' was popular and voters knew what it meant. Knowing this, they tried to work on the ballot proposal without mentioning 'term limits.' And that's what we see happening now with right-to-work.

“What the proposal is really about is stopping right-to-work and getting back bargaining advantages for the unions," he said. "But the unions are going to try to say it's about protecting collective bargaining.

“My point of view is that you can have collective bargaining and right-to-work,” Mitchell continued. “Those two things are not mutually exclusive."

Union Conservatives, a group representing union members who support right-to-work, is holding a rally in support of right-to-work at the Capitol Building in Lansing this week.

Terry Bowman, founder of the Union Conservatives, said that the poll results on the issue are a true reflection of what voters think of right-to-work when it's presented fairly.

“It's obvious that the voters support right-to-work once they hear the truth about what it really is,” Bowman said. “When asked, a majority of voters agree that workers should not be forced to pay dues to an outside, third party. This is true of union workers as well.

“Unions sometimes pay for polls that ask about right-to-work by describing it in terms of whether workers should get union representation without having to pay for it,” Bowman added. “When the question is asked that way, it tends to bring the numbers in support down. But when the truth is told about right-to-work, even union workers support it.”

Both the MRG and Mitchell polls came in the wake of Indiana becoming the nation's 23rd right-to-work state on Feb. 1. However, previous polling also showed a majority of Michigan voters support right-to-work.

In the spring of 2011, EPIC/MRA released polling data showing 54 percent of respondents supported right-to-work, with 45 percent opposed.

A poll commissioned by the Grand Rapids Press and released on Labor Day weekend, 2010, showed support for right-to-work at 51 percent, with slightly more than 27 percent opposed.

Mitchell said he can't remember when he last saw poll results that showed more opposition to right-to-work than support.

“If I've seen any, it would have been a long time ago," he said. "Everything I've done recently shows strong support for it. That includes in-depth polling I did last year that wasn't released publicly. With that polling we really vetted the issue from a lot of angles and it stood up very well.”

Nationally, polling — particularly since early 2009 — has shown unfavorable attitudes toward labor unions. A March 2009 poll conducted by Rasmussen Reports showed only 9 percent of non-union workers wanted to join unions. A February 2010 Pew Research poll revealed only 41 percent of those surveyed had a favorable view of unions, with 42 percent holding unfavorable sentiments.

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.