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Freedom From Union Compulsion
Townhall.com ^ | December 12, 2012 | Jeff Jacoby

Posted on 12/13/2012 5:47:31 AM PST by Kaslin

To everything there is a season, the Good Book says, and in Michigan workplaces the season of freedom is arriving at last.

Republican legislators voted Tuesday to make Michigan the 24th state in the nation to protect an essential civil liberty: the right to work for a living without being required to join or pay money to a labor union. Governor Rick Snyder signed the new laws – one dealing with private-sector employees, one covering government employment – a few hours later, hailing them as "pro-worker and pro-Michigan."

Big Labor and its allies, of course, are furiously denouncing this as "union busting" and worse. President Obama told union members at a Michigan engine plant on Monday that "so-called right to work laws" are an attempt "to take away your rights to bargain for better wages or working conditions." Democratic congressman Sander Levin fumed on PBS that backers of right-to-work laws want "to snuff out the voice in the workplace, to destroy collective bargaining." Thousands of union activists descended on the state Capitol in Lansing, feverishly protesting what the United Auto Workers hyperbolically labels "the worst anti-worker legislation Michigan has ever seen."

But fewer and fewer people are swayed by such over-the-top rhetoric. Even in Michigan, where the UAW was launched 75 years ago and which has long been thought of as an organized-labor stronghold, unions' strong-arm tactics no longer compel the deference they once did. On Election Day, Michigan voters comfortably backed Obama over Mitt Romney, while simultaneously spurning – by a 15-point margin – a union-promoted measure that would have cemented collective bargaining into the state constitution.

Labor unions commanded greater public affection back when they relied more on the power of persuasion than on the persuasion of power. In a 1957 Gallup Poll, 75 percent of Americans said they approved of unions. Today union approval stands at just 52 percent, while a plurality of Americans says that unions should have less influence, not more. Michigan may be America's fifth-most unionized state, but even there most residents want little to do with organized labor. Union members account for just 17.5 percent of Michigan's workforce.

It isn't hard to understand the appeal of right-to-work laws: Employees would rather choose for themselves whether to join a union, just as they choose for themselves whether to participate in their company's 401(k) plan or dental coverage or United Way campaign. Unions claim that forcing unwilling members to kick back part of each paycheck to a labor organization is the only way to prevent "free riders" – otherwise employees could enjoy all the benefits of a union contract without paying dues to support the union. But coercing workers to pay for representation they don't want and can't refuse is not a benefit. It's extortion.

Besides, unions aren't obliged to represent everyone in a workplace: That exclusive bargaining power is something they demand – and then insist everyone must pay for. It's as if a taxi you didn't order showed up at your door every day, driven by a cabbie who demanded to be paid for his trouble – or else. And the "or else" isn't theoretical. In states without right-to-work protections, unions have gotten employees fired for failing to fork over union fees.

The advantage of right-to-work laws is hard to miss. As analyst F. Vincent Vernuccio of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a market-oriented Michigan think tank, notes, workers "vote with their feet." Since 1970, the population of right-to-work states has doubled, while in states that allow compulsory unionism, the population has only grown by one-third. "The exodus route is clear," Vernuccio writes.

Between 2000 and 2010, there has been a net domestic migration of nearly 5 million people from states that lack right-to-work protection to states that confer them. Is it sheer coincidence that over the last decade, inflation-adjusted compensation in right-to-work states grew by almost 12 percent compared to just 3 percent in non-right-to-work states? Or that in CNBC's latest ranking of the "Top States for Business," all but two of the top 15 are right-to-work states?

To witness the growth a right-to-work environment makes possible, Michigan legislators need gaze no farther than neighboring Indiana, which banned compulsory unionism early in 2012. Since January, the Hoosier State has added 43,300 jobs. Michigan has lost 4,200.

But the economic gains are secondary. The essential issue is liberty. Every American worker should have the right to join a labor union. And also the right not to.


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial
KEYWORDS:

1 posted on 12/13/2012 5:47:32 AM PST by Kaslin
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To: Kaslin
The MI Right-to-Work law does not affect existing union contracts, it just prevents "closed shop" requirements in any new contracts. The UAW contracts with the Big Three auto makers don't come up for renewal until 2015. Expect to see challenges and court cases for the next two or three years leading up to it.

The timing is bad for the UAW, in that other unions are going to challenge the law, and the verdicts and appeals will all be sorted out before 2015 renewal time.

What we will see in MI is likely what we have seen in WI: a slow bleed-out of union power, as contracts expire and people leave unions, leading to reduced dues, and reduced union political power.

Ohio needs to follow. Soon.

2 posted on 12/13/2012 5:55:26 AM PST by PapaBear3625 (You don't notice it's a police state until the police come for you.)
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To: Kaslin
A great article out of the Detroit News about how the 17 percent held the other 83 percent hostage. Their my way or the highway attitude brought this about.

Right-to-work returns Michigan to the people
3 posted on 12/13/2012 6:08:19 AM PST by cripplecreek (REMEMBER THE RIVER RAISIN!)
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To: cripplecreek

One of the things that brought this all about is that the majority(land mass) of michigan are conservative. Look at the map for the election. detroit gave this state to obama. The rest of the state is full of hard working yet unemployed people who get it. They elected republican reps who made this happen. We are also a state who has been suffering for a decade.


4 posted on 12/13/2012 6:26:33 AM PST by annelizly
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To: annelizly

Prop 2 was the final straw.

Snyder said he would oppose RTW if the unions kept prop 2 off the ballot. The unions said they would then rushed ahead with their attempted power grab anyway. Snyder apparently is no fan of broken promises.

Personally I think the time is right and I’d like to see at least 2 more states strike while the iron is hot at the same time and go for RTW. This will enrage the unions even further and push them to more extreme action when the people are growing increasingly tired of them.


5 posted on 12/13/2012 6:45:14 AM PST by cripplecreek (REMEMBER THE RIVER RAISIN!)
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