As Jeremy noted on Monday, the Michigan legislature has passed a right-to-work law that makes it illegal for a labor union to coerce members into financial support. The legislation, which was signed yesterday by Gov. Rick Snyder, has been the source of protests around the state, including an event in Lansing yesterday where union thugs violently trashed an Americans for Prosperity tent.
President Barack Obama spoke out against the legislation during an event in Redford, Michigan on Monday, saying, “What we shouldn’t be doing is trying to take away your rights to bargain for better wages.”
“These so-called right-to-work laws, they don’t have to do with economics, they have everything to do with politics,” added Obama.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Obama, who has been an advocate of card-check and generally taken up pro-labor policies, is opposed to the law. When Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker pushed through reasonable measures to curtail collective bargaining rights of public-sector unions, Obama called it an “assault on unions.” According to MarketWatch, Obama’s political operation “helped mobilize thousands of workers” in protest against the Wisconsin law.
With Michigan still reeling from poor governance under Jennifer Granholm. At 9.3%, unemployment is significantly higher than the rest of the nation. Michigan needs something that will both encourage employers to hire. As Sean Remond of Free Enterprise explains, “With the average unemployment rate in freedom-to-work states 10% lower than in forced unionism states and other indices pointing to the positive impact of freedom-to-work laws, the legislature and governor in Michigan have decided to take another step toward restoring their state’s competitiveness.”
Needless to say, the legislation is sound from a public policy viewpoint, as the Washington Examiner explained yesterday:
Only 17 percent of Michigan workers are currently unionized. Those workers should not have the right to force other workers to join unions. Big Labor can hardly argue directly for coercion, so instead unions and their allies bluster and obfuscate just as Obama did yesterday.
But what exactly have the unions done for long-suffering Michigan? Its decline has followed that of its auto industry, which is chronically uncompetitive compared with both foreign companies and right-to-work states that host auto manufacturers, such as Tennessee, South Carolina and Alabama.
The theory behind forcing workers to pay union dues is that they all benefit from collective bargaining so the unions should be compensated. That is why 32,000 nonunion workers in Michigan are forced to pay union dues as a condition of their employment.
But do they really benefit? For example, when the Obama administration bailed out Detroit, the autoworkers union made sure to spare its current members the pain of the auto bankruptcies by creating a two-tier compensation system. As a result, new hires at GM and Chrysler must pay dues to an organization that arranged for them to be paid about half as much as their long-standing co-workers. These second-tier workers have no hope of ever making as much as their first-tier peers, and they also get smaller retirement and medical benefits and shorter vacations.
If the governor signs the right-to-work law, workers in Michigan will still have the right to bargain collectively. But it will also mean that those new autoworkers will have an opportunity to express their feelings about the union that threw them under the bus before they were even hired. Thousands of other reluctant union dues-payers will have the same opportunity to choose for themselves. The unions are terrified of this — as well they should be.
President Obama will, of course, speak out against anything that doesn’t help his union pals, especially as their numbers decline in the private-sector. What union apologists, like Obama, won’t tell you is that this legislation simply provides workers with a choice as to whether or not they want to financially back a union. Isn’t choice supposed to be what Democrats are all about?