Michigan about to become a right to work state
The state most closely identified with the unionization of America, Michigan, may well be the next state to adopt a “right-to-work” law, making the payment of union dues voluntary.
Today Republican Governor Rick Snyder said he would now support Michigan becoming the 24th state to adopt the statute; the move has already sent shivers through the union hierarchy.
The unions dispatched hundreds of workers to the capital to protest the introduction of the legislation, setting up a Wisconsin-like government versus unions battle.
In 2011 the Wisconsin legislature enacted laws to curb the powers of unions sparking massive protests, a takeover of the state’s capitol building and an unsuccessful bid to recall Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.
Michigan is the home to the U.S. auto industry and the United Auto Workers. If the legislation clears the Michigan House and Senate and is signed into law by Gov. Snyder it would become the second state in the industrial mid-west to make the move after Indiana earlier this year.
According to Gov. Snyder the proposed legislation will cover both the public and private sectors, only exempting the police and fire departments; the plan is to pass the legislation prior to the lawmaker’s holiday adjournment.
"Quite often people call it right-to-work, but I think it is a much better description to say that this is about fairness in the workplace and equality in the workplace," Snyder said.
Snyder requested the law be passed quickly and vowed he would sign it when it arrived on his desk.
Michigan’s legislator is controled by the Republican Party. Speaker of the House Jase Bolger and Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville have indicated that they believe there are sufficient votes to pass the legislation and are pressing to seek passage along Gov. Snyder’s schedule.
Wednesday more than 400 union workers demonstrated in the state capital with plans for additional protests today; union officials are putting on an all-out blitz to press lawmakers to oppose the right-to-work proposal.
Snyder's support for the legislation is a bit of an about-face. Until recently Snyder has opposed right-to-work as “too divisive.” Snyder is pointing to the successes of Indiana’s change as the basis for his change of heart.
"I think this is what is best for Michigan," Snyder said.
In all likelihood the event that had the greatest affect on Snyder’s reversal was the Michigan voter’s rejection of a ballot initiative to make collective bargaining a permanent fixture in the state’s constitution. Immediately following the voter veto state lawmakers renewed their calls to take up the right-to-work issue before the end of the year.
If enacted the right-to-work law would allow workers to opt-out of union dues and will disallow requirements that an employee join a union to work at any business.
Right-to-work states find it much easier to woo businesses to join their communities and have lower unemployment rates than collective bargaining union controlled states. Opponents to right-to-work argue that such laws suppress worker wages and benefits and are aimed at undermining the financial stability of unions.
Passage gained momentum Monday when the Michigan Chamber of Commerce gave its support for a right-to-work law.
Michigan is among the top five states in union membership according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Should the home of the United Auto Workers fall it will clear the way for other mid-western states to seek right-to-work status and would accelerate the decline of unions across America.