The only word to describe what is currently occurring in Michigan is insanity.
Today democratically elected state representatives in Michigan are set to pass a bill to make Michigan a right-to-work. This bill will be passed in the context of Michigan essentially suffering a one-state recession for the past decade and Michigan voters rejecting several pro-union referendums in the November election. Instead of respecting the democratic process and attempting to sway voters in future elections, Democrats and their union allies have reacted by threatening a political war and throwing a public tantrum.
They are doing this for two simple reasons: they have no legitimate argument against this bill and they fear that the bill will help make Michigan business successful before the next election. This isn’t a policy disagreement between two sides trying to help the state of Michigan, it is a dispute between one side that is attempting to do something it believes will benefit the state and another that is attempting to make a lot of noise to avoid an actual debate.
This is not the first time Democrats and unions have attempted this method, as they threw a very similar tantrum and forced a recall election in Wisconsin this year. Not only did Democrats and unions in Wisconsin fail to recall Walker, they are now dealing with the reality that Walker’s reforms were extremely successful. As Byron York of The Washington Examiner has noted, Walker’s actions resulted in more money, more teachers and better conditions in schools around the state. Union allies in Michigan realize voters could see similar success by the time the next election comes around, and therefore they have once again chosen to acting like five-year-olds that didn’t get the toy they wanted for their birthday. Elections have consequences. The people of Michigan elected a Republican-led state government and now Republicans deserve the opportunity to pass laws they believe will turn the state around.
The reality that Democrats are actively trying to obscure is that all this law does is give people a choice whether or not they want to be part of a union. It does not ban unions or in take away from any employee rights they currently have. Free association is one of the most sacred principles in America. Individuals should be allowed to decide if belonging to a union, which will likely use large amounts of their hard-earned money towards paying union bosses and supporting one-sided political causes, is worth the dues they are forced to pay.
If this bill passes, Michigan will become the twenty-fourth right-to-work state in the country. Right-to-work states have an unemployment rate that is significantly lower than forced-union states. They also made up an overwhelming majority of the new jobs that were created in the twenty first century. Between 1999 and 2009, job growth rose in right-to-work states by 3.7 percent and fell in “forced-unionism states” by 2.8 percent. These are jobs that Michigan is losing to other states and now has a chance to get back.
Opponents of right-to-work are purely relying on ignorance as they have very little substantive support for their position. The two most commonly used arguments against right-to-work are easily disproven distortions. First, union supporters claim that right-to-work legislation causes wage losses for employees. They make this claim by deceptively pointing to the fact that right-to-work states have lower average wages. While this is true, it has nothing to do with unions. States like California, New York and Illinois have significantly higher costs of living, so the wages in those states are automatically higher. However, when one looks at actual changes in income, the numbers aren’t even close. Between 1999 and 2009, personal income in right-to-work states grew by 28.3 percent while it only grew by 14.7 percent in forced-union states. In other words, wages and income actually grew at twice the rate in states that implemented right-to-work. On top of that, part of that income is automatically taken away to pay for union dues.
The only other argument that opponents of right-to-work make is that workers who leave unions will act like free-riders and benefit from union bargaining without paying union dues. This argument would make sense if companies had to give all of their employees the same contracts, but they don’t. Companies are free to pay their union workers at higher rates than non-union workers if union bargaining really does mean a huge pay advantage. In fact, if unions really are able to negotiate better pay and benefits, most workers will freely choose to remain members and pay dues. The problem is that in many cases unions don’t deliver these superior wages, which is why so many people believe that the dues they are forced to pay are simply a waste of money.
That Democrats and their union allies are having such a panic attack over the possibility of Michigan’s legislature giving workers the freedom to choose whether or not to join a union and where their money should go is telling in itself. Those groups are rightly worried that right-to-work will permanently take away their ability to use Michigan workers for their own ends. The fact is that this fight isn’t about them. This is about allowing Michigan, a once great and thriving state, to finally experience a real economic recovery. They can throw tantrums, but the jig is almost up. Fairly soon right-to work will be the law in Michigan and voters can judge for themselves whether they want more jobs, real choice, higher incomes or another decade of despair.