Michigan: A Right-to-Work State?

AP Photo/Detroit News/Dale G. Young

Pro-union demonstrators crowd the Rotunda at the Capitol in Lansing, Michigan after House and Senate Democrats said there was a possibility of "Right To Work" legislation coming up for a vote.

Labor never ruled Michigan as such. It may have been home to the best and biggest American union, the United Auto Workers, but even at the height of their power, the UAW could seldom elect its candidates to Detroit city government. Still, the UAW dominated the state’s Democratic Party and much of state politics for decades—at least, until the auto industry radically downsized.

Just how downsized union power has become is apparent from the decision of the state’s Republican governor, Rick Snyder, to support a right-to-work bill that began speeding its way through the state’s lame-duck GOP-controlled legislature on Thursday. Should the bill become law—and given Republican control of state government, it’s hard to envision how it won’t—Michigan would join historically more conservative Indiana as the second state from the industrial Midwest to move to right-to-work status. Until last year, when Indiana enacted its statute, right-to-work states were confined to the South, the Plains states and the Mountain West—states devoid of a major union presence. That such laws are now coming to the industrial Midwest is just more evidence of the continual weakening of industrial unions—the unions that have taken the most direct hit from offshoring and mechanization.

But why enact such laws when most unions are no longer big enough to take any bite out of company profits? In fact, the pressure for such laws isn’t coming from companies like Ford or GM, which can how hire new union workers for half of what they pay their more veteran workers. It’s purely political. Weakened though they be in the economic arena, unions still punch well above their weight at election time. That’s one reason why President Obama carried every state in the industrial Midwest save (almost) perpetually Republican Indiana. 

And if anyone doubts that politics lies behind the Michigan Republicans’ decision to enact a right-to-work bill, consider one of the bill’s particulars: the only unions it exempts from the bill’s coverage, the Wall Street Journal is reporting, are police and firefighter unions.  Snyder said that the GOP had carved out that exception because their jobs needed protection from labor strife.

Think about that for a moment. The effect of the Republicans’ exemption would be to ensure police and firefighters have the strongest unions in the state, the ones most capable of taking job actions when they sought to better their pay and working conditions. Elsewhere across the U.S. today, states and cities are trying to scale back pensions and other benefits of their employees, and police and firefighters are often targeted because their pay and benefits exceed those of other public workers. Moreover, historically, governors and mayors have been wary of the power of such unions—Republican governors and mayors in particular. Massachusetts Gov. Calvin Coolidge first came to the nation’s attention by breaking a Boston police strike in 1919—“There is no right to strike against the public safety,” he proclaimed. It was his strikebreaking that won him a place on the 1920 Republican ticket. 

Now, however, Snyder, like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, has created a police-and-firefighter carve out. The reason is purely political—in Michigan, as in Wisconsin, the police and firefighter unions often support Republicans for state and local office, and Republicans want to make sure that they’ll continue to do so with undiminished clout. The carve-out, said Michigan House Democratic leader Tim Greimel, “makes it very clear that this is not about sound economic policy. It’s motivated by a desire to punish supporters of the Democratic Party.” 

And so it is. 


It's ok for Obama to cater to the "hispanic" community by buying their votes through a temporary amnesty, vowing destruction to business and the rich, Obamacare (forced through a Dem controlled administration) and the like, but, the republicans do something similar and the left cries foul.

Can you say hypocrite?

The Democrats never tried to DENY the ability of non-Hispanic voters to raise money for politics, nor did they target the higher wages that non-Hispanics statistically receive compared to Hispanics (if there is such an advantage). The Republicans are WRITING INTO LAW conditions that will LOWER WAGES for workers that currently have union protection, REDUCE their health care support, REMOVE protection from unsafe working conditions, and STARVE THE UNIONS of funds to administer themselves (and more importantly, to donate to Democrats) by denying VOLUNTARY payroll deductions. By the way, for those who say that "union bosses" (as opposed to business LEADERS?) control "political slush funds", the fact is that IN ADDITION to union dues, unions are required to solicit VOLUNTARY EXTRA DONATIONS for money that can be used politically. Check with any local office of any union to verify this.

As a Southerner, I have always worked in RTWFL states (except for one 3-month assignment in California in the 1970's), and if I had not been in engineering with a college degree, would have been working low wage jobs my entire career. Except for one summer job in college, in a defense plant, and my last three full-time working years working for a large company with a nationwide union tradition, I never belonged to a union, and for more than half my career, I did not work for a company that HAD unions for other departments than mine. I have seen how workers in RTWFL states live, and I would not want to spread those conditions to others.

Remember, you cannot make a nation MORE prosperous by making a larger percentage of its people LESS prosperous.

"unions are required to solicit VOLUNTARY EXTRA DONATIONS for money that can be used politically" "Required"? By who?

The issue here seems to be a poor choice of words. The point, it would seem, is that contributions to union lobbying and PACs are voluntary.

Ultimately Michigan felt it had to do something to make the state more competitive. With Indiana’s recent decision to become a RTW state, there was pressure for Michigan to be more business friendly. We had already seen companies leave Michigan for Indiana (http://bit.ly/THATfV).

Your article presents no evidence in support of your claim.

Did you make up your claim that "We had already seen companies leave Michigan for Indiana" or do you actually have a source?

Incidentally, we have seen jobs leave Michigan for RTW states for decades. Last I checked, Michigan didn't want to become Mississippi or Alabama. What do you believe has changed?

The fire fighters and police marched in Wisconsin everyday during the protesting even though they were not all included in ACT 10. The fire fighters came through daily playing bag pipes and marching as a group to support the unions.

No right-to-work state has excellent schools. Mostly they attract polluting businesses and low wage workers. It is a race to the bottom. Michigan has proven the willingness to go to the bottom with Gov. Snyder who prefers the tyrant model to democracy. Michigan voted him in and they either respond or live with the results.

Are you talking about the excellent schools in New York and Illinois and California, all strong Democratic states that never allow teachers to be fired even if they announce to their class that since they can't be fired they intend to ignore the ungrateful little student in their classes and just read novels during teaching time. (Actual Example by the way: See the film "Waiting for Superman" about the problems in today's educational system. This is NOT a right-wing movie -- it is intensely caring about the children, often blacks, who get ghastly educations).

I am talking about Wisconsin that has a stellar educational system being destroyed by the right-wing Koch Brother fan Scott Walker. I live in Sacramento where Kevin Johnson is married to the Charter School maven who made "Waiting for Superman". If you have no commitment to public schools, think cherry-picking students is the way to go and hiring teachers with a commitment to the school profit, that school is for you. CA education was trashed by Prop. 13, another right-wing boondoggle for the sponsor, Howard Jarvis.

Wow, you hit on almost every talking point; Koch brothers, charter schools, Prop 13...I'm surprised you couldn't squeeze in "make the rich pay their fair share" and "back alley abortions".

Back alley abortions? That is your idea. I do think the rich should pay their fair share. That jobs need to be here in the US. That most of the 1% are traitors to the US.

As someone in SoCal for 20+ years, you haven't a clue.

This state has seen fit to raid money. Prop 13 for taxes only meant that taxes went up ~2% per year. AGAIN, even including great appreciation in housing value, once an older home is sold, it is taxed at the new purchase price. So, if someone buys a home back in the 1980's for 50K and is taxed on that home while they raise their kids (i.e., paying for schools and teachers, etc.,) and then in the boom of 2000's sold it for 350K, the new homeowners are paying a tax bill at the new value of 350K. WTF is wrong with that? Under the old scenario, as that house appreciated, though the original owners did not recieve any money from that appreciation, the tax guy said "doesn't matter. We're going to tax you as the appreciation goes up." WTF??

So the schools weren't trashed by Prop 13.

Second, when the state initiated the lottery, all proceeds were to go to education. You can thank the D's who have controlled the state for years that there's no money.

Third, with 10% of the nations population, we have 1/3 of the country's welfare recipients. Why? Because let's all sing kumbaya and let everyone in no matter what. We have over 1/3 of Latino and black kids dropping out of school. Great teachers? Nope. Just a social policy of "passing" kids so their self-esteem won't get hurt. Nevermind that they haven't learned anything.

Now we learn after that great tax increase from November that November state receipts are 10% below what they were estimated to be. But Moonbat Brown had some folks from Stanford, in sociology and some other make believe background, do a study in which they said millionaires and billionaires wouldn't leave because "they don't want to pull their kids from their friends in school and they like to network here." Facebook anyone?

And speaking of Facebook, the D's made their budget last year with the premise of people cashing in their Facebook stock to the tune of $1B to help fill in the deficit. Yeah, great investors these D state legislaturers.

So the mayor of Sacratmento is married to the producer of a conservative movie and that's a response? Gor every Koch brother, there's a Soros. As for "Cherry picking" who the heck do you think would leave inner city schools on a voucher program? WASP kids? NEWSFLASH !! The ones who could leave have already left. Why not give the inner-city kid the same chance with state money rather than plowing it back into a failed system? And it's the D's who say the R's are leaving in fantasy land.

If my kid's teacher can't hold a job because of accountability, then he/she should be fired. It's not that hard. i remember sitting in classrooms of 5 across and 5 or 6 deep. The problem is teacher's are more focuse on "what" they think students should know instead of teaching. My Two Dads. Che Guevarra. the Evil Koch Brothers. Ed Asner's Cal Teacher Ass asinine rich cartoon video. That's the reason Johnny can't read. It's not because the Koch Brothers, Adelson or anyone else contributes to politicians. Ever wonder why teachers and politicians send their kids to private schools? BECAUSE THEY KNOW !!!

Give me your address and I'll send you a quarter to buy a clue.

More Liberal slipshod journalism.

Firefighters and Police are exempt from Michigan's RTW law because they are prohibited from striking and must submit to binding arbitration for all disputes.

It isn't a matter of politics or endorsement. It is a matter of practicality with highly skilled professions having high turnover and low longevity.

You are aware that Michigan prohibits public employees, including school teachers, from striking, aren't you?


So it's your belief that all civil service unions should be exempt from the law?

But why enact such laws when most unions are no longer big enough to take any bite out of company profits?

Because they take a bit out of employees' paychecks. Workers are FORCED to join a union against their will, then FORCED to pay dues to the Democratic Party. If you want to grouse about the politics of this issue, there it is.
The effect of the Republicans’ exemption would be to ensure police and firefighters have the strongest unions in the state, the ones most capable of taking job actions when they sought to better their pay and working conditions.

That's nonsense. Public employees can't take "job actions" in Michigan. State law prohibits them from striking. You know very well that if those unions were included in the right-to-work law, you would still oppose it as "political."

Let police or firefighter just try striking, and perhaps they'll get a dose of PATCO medicine. Sooner or later, one way or another, they'll be broken too, just as the rest of the public-sector unions are being busted now. And it's high time!

Prior to Reagan, union support for the parties was roughly equal. You may find it confounding, but most others can figure out why decades of concerted Republican attacks on organized labor have resulted in a shift of union money away from the party that is actively working against the interests of organize labor. Meanwhile, as you should know, despite the history to which Myerson points, Republicans are exempting police and firefighters from their present union-bashing efforts and, lo and behold... those unions largely support Republican candidates.

If it's a horror that "Workers are FORCED to join a union against their will, then FORCED to pay dues to the [Republican] Party", why do you suppose Republican politicians want to continue to inflict that horror on on policemen and firemen?

Majority of Firefighters and Police unions do not support R politicians. It is typically state by state. In Cali, it's the D's. Probably in Tennessee, it's the R's.

However, there are pockets in every state. Take Cali. 1/3 of it is conservative. Does that mean that the 1/3 of Firefighters who are R's should have to pay dues to support D politicians? At the end of the day, very little dues money is used for strike fund, none of it is used for pensions, and most goes to political campaigns and unions stewards (management) pockets.

Ever wonder why D's and allies were against letting younger workers put their some of their SS contributions into the market? Yet, where does CalPers, UAW and the like put their money for pensions? It sure isn't under the mattress.

Fix your website. Your HTML tags aren't working!

Which ones?

"No right-to-work state has excellent schools. Mostly they attract polluting businesses and low wage workers. It is a race to the bottom."
Wow and the great state of Michigan and the wonderful city of Detroit are at the top of the heap. Get real. Public unions are responsible for the destruction of this once great country.

First, your comment is not responsive to the point raised.

Second, Detroit schools are not typical of Michigan schools.

one thing is for certain. if you want hyper partisan rhetoric, of a not very intelligent type, look no further than harold meyerson. here or in the feckless Wapo, meyerson is the kind of myopic "progressive" that makes a thinking man cringe. we have to "protect" workers by forcing them to join and pay for organizations that they don't want to join. we have to force them to accept the "protection" of unions, meyerson, you hack? that sounds like mob brooklyn more than anything fair/noble. you're a joke, man....

The bottom line is that no company wants to invest and create jobs in a mandatory union state.

A comment that would be more interesting if it were true.

Ann Arbor has a vibrant economy, due in no small part to its highly educated workforce, good schools, good amenities.... And it attracts good jobs.

Flint has a struggling economy, due in no small part to its poorly educated workforce, bad schools, poor amenities.... And it has become a staging ground for non-unionized call centers, paying low wages.

What type of jobs might theoretically be drawn to Michigan by union-busting? The type exemplified by Flint and its call centers.

Why of course. Because for the last 30 years MI has been a hot bed of economic activity.

Until now, Unions could count on the state or employer to extract dues from their members, now unions must collect that money themselves. If that shift criples unions ability to collect, maybe they should demonstrate a little more accountability to their members instead of funneling billions to the Democratic party.

The new rtw law does not hinder collective bargaining. The Unions are also free to ask workers to join. The only difference is workers don't HAVE TO JOIN. If there is an advantage they will. People don't like to HAVE TO support the Democratic Party. And that is where a lot of the money goes to. ( And, of course, to pay hefty salaries to the Union bosses.)
Gov Snyder was not going to push the issue, but they tried put a proposal to a vote to CHANGE Michigan's Constitution to ENSURE union participation.It would have hampered our Congress' ability to pass laws, and negated some already passed. That is why Snyder will sign the bill.

From day one the entire purpose of "right to work" laws has been to hinder collective bargaining - and it has worked. Nobody with a whit of knowledge on the subject, including the Republicans who are working so hard to undermine labor organization, would suggest otherwise.

You are aware that states have legislatures, and that Congress is a federal institution, aren't you? Alas, I suspect not...

The union's proposal was soundly defeated by Michigan voters.

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(If there's one thing we know about comment trolls, it's that they're lazy)