After regaining full control of the Michigan Legislature in November for the first time in four decades, state Democrats are patting themselves on the back for marching through their liberal priority list, from expanding LGBTQ protections to restricting guns.
One of the most damaging and shortsighted proposals would overturn the state’s decade-old right-to-work law, which gives workers the choice to opt out of paying union dues and fees and still keep their job. Unions can operate as they did before – they just have to earn the support of their members.
Michigan’s economy is still fragile after extended pandemic lockdowns put in place by Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, so this is an especially bad time for the state to put union interests ahead of what’s best for all citizens.
What’s happening in Michigan is noteworthy because it’s a microcosm of what President Joe Biden (self-anointed the “most pro-union president leading the most pro-union administration in American history”) wants to do to the rest of the country.
Michigan no longer open for business
It’s no surprise that Democrats want to return favors for the labor unions who generously fund their campaigns. The union membership rate has fallen in recent decades – to 10% in 2022 from 20% in 1983, yet unions remain a powerful political influence.
What’s good for unions is good for Democrats, and vice versa. Yet at what cost to everyone else?
We’ll know soon in Michigan, as the legislature is close to sending its bills to Whitmer, who has promised to sign them.
Former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican, signed the right-to-work law in 2012 and helped give the state a strong economic footing. In a recent op-ed, he said that in overturning this law, Michigan is announcing it’s “closed for business.”
Leading business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, have also warned Michigan against taking this action.
Supporters of right-to-work states say they generally boast lower unemployment, increased population gains and stronger job and household income growth.
If the law is overturned, Steve Delie, director of labor policy at the Michigan-based Mackinac Center for Public Policy, says he “would expect the opposite to occur.”
It also would create an unstable legal environment that could serve as a detriment to companies locating in Michigan. The state has already lost out on several large auto plants that opted instead for Southern states.
Expect that trend to escalate.
Workers should have a choice
Right to work is at its heart about freedom, so Democratic claims about forced unionization being good for workers is suspect. Taking this option away from employees is good for union bosses – period. Just look at recent corruption scandals within the United Auto Workers to see how union leaders abuse their power at workers’ expense.
Delie says that forcing workers to pay union fees and dues – in Michigan they average between $600 and $1,000 a year – would further strain citizens’ pocketbooks as they deal with inflation and other financial setbacks.
Unions love to complain about the “free rider problem” that occurs when workers opt out of joining a union yet are still covered by the negotiated contract. That’s no fault of the workers, however, as union leaders fight for exclusive representation, which gives them more power.
It turns out, giving workers a choice is popular. A recent poll found the majority of Michigan residents support the right-to-work law.
Do the Democrats care? Nope. They’ve even included an appropriation in the legislation that would make it voter-referendum proof.
Since Michigan passed its right-to-work law in 2012, at least 140,000 workers have exercised their new rights and resigned their union membership. Reinstating forced unionization will take that choice away. About 60,000 of those are private-sector workers.
Biden keeps doing favors for union buddies
Democrats wrote the legislation so it addresses both private- and public-sector workers, but thanks to a 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision, public-sector workers, including teachers, will still have the right to opt out of forced fees or dues, which the court found to be an unconstitutional affront to free speech. If that decision is ever reversed, however, the full extent of Michigan’s new law would kick in.
Meanwhile, Biden and Democrats in Congress are seeking to mirror what Michigan’s doing on a national level. Since he took office, Biden has signed executive orders and backed regulations that are a boon to unions. And he hasn’t stopped advocating for the PRO (Protecting the Right to Organize) Act that would overturn private-sector right-to-work laws around the country.
Taking choices away from workers is bad for them – and as we will see soon in Michigan, it’s bad for business, too.