News Story

Tea Party Groups Engaged In Battle For Right-To-Work

Unions in Michigan have actively engaged their members about how to deal with a possible right-to-work bill and union executives have gone out of their way to say the issue would be divisive.

But they aren't the only ones making noise.

Cindy Gamrat, of the Plainwell Patriots, said her group's members have been actively engaged and are making sure their voices are heard regarding the right-to-work discussion in Lansing.

"We're calling lawmakers; we're posting on Facebook; and we're talking about it in the local communities," Gamrat said. "We're informing our members, the way we did on Proposal 2. That's the biggest thing we’ve done. We're getting the message out. You might not see our bodies there (at the Capitol) but we'll be a presence."

A presence at the Capitol, however, will be seen today as a number of right-to-work supporters are scheduled to rally from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in support of a right-to-work law, which prohibits forcing employees to financially support unions as a condition of employment.

Wendy Day, president of Common Sense in Government, said that grassroots activists from across Michigan got together a couple weeks ago and right-to-work was one of the main topics they discussed.

"We're going to be active on the right-to-work issue, just like we were about the (health care) exchange," she said. "This is a very important issue for us to follow."

Last winter, when Indiana became the first Rust Belt state to adopt a right-to-work law, pressure intensified for Michigan to follow suit. However, Gov. Rick Snyder wasn't anxious to pick a fight with the unions over the issue. Then the unions pursued Proposal 2, which would have made it illegal for Michigan to pass a right-to-work law.

"The unions brought the right-to-work issue to the forefront with Proposal 2," Day said. "Prior to that, the governor said it wasn't on his agenda. But the people of Michigan overwhelmingly defeated Proposal 2.

"We may not be there in body, but we will be making our presence felt," she said.

Union attempts to block the right-to-work legislation run counter to public opinion. Two polls taken last spring showed support for Michigan becoming a right-to-work state. About 58 percent of likely voters thought it was a good idea.

Randy Bishop of the Northern Michigan Patriots said he is headed to Lansing to show his support.

"I'll be at the Capitol (Tuesday) as part of the Workplace Freedom event," Bishop said.

The "Workplace Freedom" event is sponsored by Americans for Prosperity.

Bishop said he's expecting to see union protesters at the Capitol who oppose right-to-work. In fact, he said he is hoping to get a chance to talk with some.

"I'm looking forward to interviewing some of those union protesters," Bishop said. "I want to ask them why they'd be opposed to having more freedom. I'd like to ask them why, as union members, they wouldn't want union officials to have more of an incentive to provide better customer service.

"As it is now, most union members never even get a chance to talk to union officials,” Bishop continued. “But that would change after we pass right-to-work and the unions are no longer allowed to automatically have dues taken out of employee checks. When that happens, they’ll have to provide better customer service. They’ll start having to compete for their members.”

Sen. Patrick Colbeck, R-Canton, one of the strongest proponents in the legislature of a right-to-work law, said he thinks grassroots activism will have an impact.

"I think it's important to let them (lawmakers) know there are a lot of people out there in support of this," Sen. Colbeck said. "The tea parties have demonstrated that when it comes to these kinds of issues they are not just fair-weather friends. When they support something, they support it all the way and are willing to be vocal about it."

Michigan would become the 24th right-to-work state in the nation if a law is passed and signed by the governor and it would be the first state with a large percentage of union workers to do so. Nearly 18 percent of the state’s workers belong to a union. Michigan has the fifth-highest percentage of unionized workers in the U.S.

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.