On December 11, 2012 Governor Rick Snyder signed two bills making Michigan the nation's 24th Right-to-Work state. Michigan's action strikes a big blow for individual worker freedom. The new law will bar requiring workers to pay money to a third party, such as unions, as a condition of employment.
It has always seemed unfair to me that anyone could be forced to join a union in order to get or keep a job. "Free-to-choose" ought to extend to the workplace, too. That a state even needs to adopt RTW laws to protect that freedom is evidence that things have gotten out of whack in the land of the free where there exists self-evident truths.
Michigan's bold reforming legislation is particularly noteworthy coming in the state known as the "birthplace of organized labor" and the mighty United Auto Workers (UAW).
But, it didn't come without a fight – literally. For days, thousands of pro-union protesters gathered at the State Capitol in Lansing. The protestors often "turned ugly, with punches thrown and pepper spray dispersed," as even the liberal Huffington Post reported. Americans for Prosperity, a Liberty group supporting the RTW legislation, had a large tent at the Capitol attacked and torn down by the protesters (video here).
Barack Obama, who owes much of his past and present political life to the support of organized labor, got in the act. Showing up at a Daimler Diesel Plant in Redford, the President said that the RTW legislation was about "giving you the right to work for less money."
That's a bogus claim often made by big labor and their chosen politicians, but it simply doesn't hold up to the facts. As the following chart courtesy of Investor's Business Daily indicates, compensation for workers in RTW states has increased more rapidly than in forced union states. Plus, the RTW states have experienced net job growth while the union states have lost employment.
In addition, RTW states (with the exception of Indiana that just enacted RTW legislation in early 2012) "were responsible for 72% of all net household job growth across the U.S. from June 2009 through September 2012," according to National Institute for Labor Relations Research.
So contrary to the President's false assertion, workers in RTW states are getting the better portion. Not surprisingly, Americans have noticed and are voting with their feet. RTW states experienced an increase in population of 15.3% from 2000-2010 compared to just 5.9% growth in non-RTW states.
It is important to note that Michigan's new law does nothing to discourage any willing worker to join a union. Presumably, if the worker becomes convinced that he or she is getting value for the dues they pay, they will readily continue their membership.
The unions argue that their collective bargaining efforts for better wages and benefits are well worth the membership dues. But, according to published reports, the financial records of the Michigan Education Association (public teachers' union) indicate the union spends a mere 11% on "representational activities." Most of the rest of the spending was on "general overhead" – personnel expense for union bosses and employees, and the huge sums on political lobbying and electioneering.
Once free to choose, scores of workers apparently don't feel that they are getting enough bang for the buck, and drop their membership. After next door neighbor Wisconsin adopted legislation freeing workers from forced union membership, the ranks of in the state's second largest public sector union plummeted to less than half. According to the Wall Street Journal, membership in AFSCME, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, feel to 28,745 in February, 2012 from 62,818 in March, 2011 the month the pro-worker legislation was signed into law.
So, this month's tip-of-the-hat goes to the courageous members of the Michigan legislature and Governor Snyder. Michigan's new law is a positive step for worker freedom, and for Michigan's ailing economy that has suffered far too long in no small part because of the negative consequences of big labor protectionist policies.