News Story

Unions On The Offensive Against Possible Right-To-Work Bill in Michigan

Training sessions teach union members what to say when pressuring lawmakers

Rarely has a lame-duck session of the Legislature in Michigan prompted so much interest from the media or the public.

State health care exchange legislation was hotly debated, then shelved. Education reform has been proposed. Regional transit is being discussed, and unions in Michigan are rallying behind the possibility that a right-to-work bill will be introduced and signed by the governor.

Those are significant issues that separately will shape the state’s future.

Interestingly, the issue that is causing the most handwringing — right-to-work — is the only one of the group without any actual action in the Legislature. No bill has been introduced.

Unions are so worried that they might lose their closed shop privileges that they are holding meetings across the state telling people how to apply pressure to state legislators to make them aware of the repercussions (read: recall) if they vote “yes” on a right-to-work bill.

The trainees are being told to be polite when they blast the phone lines of elected officials offices because being divisive might lessen their credibility, according to a person who attended a session Tuesday. Special software could be provided to help intensify the volume of calls and trainees are being told to recruit three friends who will make calls and who will then recruit three other friends.

When they call, they’ll have all the labor talking points to use. They’ll use selective facts and figures that fit union narratives about the “dangers” of worker freedom and choice. And there will be the usual rollout of how education will suffer and how public safety will be threatened if Michigan becomes a state that allows workers to decide if they want to be in a union and be forced to pay dues or a fee to be represented.

The state's unions will tell the media and the public that workers earn less if a right-to-work bill is passed and signed, and the unions will say such a bill will destroy unions.

What they won't tell everyone is that unions can and will still exist if Michigan becomes the 24th right-to-work state and that such a law simply makes it illegal for unions to force people to pay for representation as a condition of employment.

On Thursday, Gov. Rick Snyder said everyone should "remain calm and not be firing back and forth," according to a story in the Detroit Free Press. Only the only side firing shots is labor.

Republican legislators and the business community have remained quiet on the issue. Gov. Snyder has repeated his long-standing insistence that the issue is divisive and not on his agenda.

Though unions represent only about 17 percent of the state’s workforce, they provide a disproportionate amount of noise on issues that affect their protectionist privileges. Expect that they also will spare no expense trying to protect their turf.

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.