The union takeover has arrived in Michigan
Michigan is about to become a 100% subsidiary of Big Labor again.
After their narrow election victories in November, Democratic majorities in the state legislature joined Governor Gretchen Whitmer in repealing the state’s decade-old Right to Work Act, which ensures that no worker cannot be fired if he decides not to join a union. The House passed the repeal on March 8, and the Senate followed suit this week, and Whitmer appears poised to push the right to work into oblivion. This about-face, deeply unpopular with voters, will undo Michigan’s hard-won economic progress.
The benefits of Michigan’s right to work law are indisputable, even if the unions and their Democratic allies prefer not to talk about it. For decades, right-to-work states have experienced faster population growth, faster job growth, and faster income growth. This is the result of giving workers the freedom to choose for themselves whether or not to join a union. This freedom leads to a more vibrant economy, while giving businesses a much stronger reason to come to Michigan or expand their operations in the state.
The benefits of right to work laws are visible across the country. From 2012 to 2021, median household income increased 36.5% in states with right-to-work protections compared to the average for states without them. Unemployment has fallen by more than a third, again better than in states that do not have the right to work. And Michigan has seen a bigger decline in poverty than all but two states that require workers to pay unions.
Additionally, the Right to Work Act upended Michigan’s manufacturing fortunes. My organization’s research shows that the share of manufacturing jobs in Michigan counties is 26.1% higher than it would have been without the law. In neighboring Ohio, which has no right to work law, counties saw a 30% drop. Michigan is likely creating manufacturing jobs at the expense of Ohio. This makes sense: when faced with a choice between a right to work state and a forced union state, companies generally choose the former.
What could justify the reversal of this progress? Money and power, of course. Since 2012, a staggering 140,000 Michigan workers have opted out of union membership, robbing unions of millions of dollars in revenue. Without this money, union spending on politics is more limited. But after the Democrats’ sweeping victories in November, unions have embarked on policies that guarantee them more money and power — even if that means driving out businesses and families, as was the case before the right to work. labor law passed.
Sixty thousand private sector workers who left their unions will now be forced to send their hard-earned money into union coffers with every paycheck or be fired. Unions can turn around and spend that money electing more Democrats, who will continue to adopt more policies that tip the balance in favor of unions — and away from workers and job creators.
Unions take no risks. They are already pushing other policies that will strengthen their power. This includes a bill that would subsidize union dues with taxpayers’ money by making dues fully tax refundable, which seems obviously designed to allow unions to take even more money from workers. Another bill under consideration would exempt unions from political action committee contribution limits, while giving them special treatment and payments when they endorse candidates.
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Where will this road lead? Look no further than California, Illinois, Connecticut and other union-dominated states. Companies and families are fleeing them all, while unions continue to successfully demand ever more harmful policies.
In 2012, Michigan sought to avoid that fate with the passage of its Right to Work Act, restoring freedom and economic vitality. Just over 10 years later, the dream of a better economic future and freedom from union coercion is fading.
Steve Delie is director of labor policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy and legal and policy adviser at Workers for Opportunity.
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