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Right-to-Work Comes to Michigan, the Epicenter of Union Control

OP-ED — When Michigan’s Governor Rick Snyder signed the right-to-work bill passed yesterday his state will become the 24th right-to-work state in America.

Not only has the passage of this bill enraged union activists and leaders as well as sparked heated protests, it is an indicator of something far beyond Michigan’s state lines. Michigan is one of the most heavily unionized states in the country, with 17.5 percent of workers belonging to a union. The United Autoworkers is one of the most powerful and storied unions in the country. If Michigan is no longer safe from sweeping revisions to its labor laws, then none of the remaining pro-union states in the Midwest and Northeast are immune.

Michigan’s labor movement considered the aggressive moves over the past two years by Republicans in Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana to roll back union rights and rolled the political dice. The UAW and the rest of the state’s labor movement decided their influence may be diminished but still held the biggest punch in town. Confident of that, opponents of right-to-work laws sought to permanently inscribe the right to collectively bargain into the state’s constitution.

The unions went all in, with a comprehensive and expensive campaign. Learning from what happened in Wisconsin they made sure their referendum was easy to understand, up or down on the constitutional right to collective bargaining. The referendum ran during a hard-fought presidential campaign, with Michigan, as always, a key state. Democratic turnout, and, thus, presumably, support for the union position would be high.

But the proposal ran 12 points behind Barack Obama and lost 58-42.The headcount said simply that the UAW and allied unions did not have the unqualified support of most Michigan voters. The unions could make a lot of noise and offer a lot of threats but they couldn’t create sufficient civil strife to defeat the right-to-work legislation.

As expected, President Obama and the Democrats are incensed. “What we shouldn’t be doing is trying to take away your rights to bargain for better wages and working conditions,” the president said at the Daimler Detroit Diesel plant in Redford. The President urged the state’s GOP-controlled legislature and Republican Gov. Rick Snyder to abandon their efforts to pass the law, which would forbid unions from charging its members dues automatically. With typical campaign oratory he said, “We don’t want a race to the bottom, we want a race to the top.”

Rhetoric aside, right-to-work legislation could be the best thing to happen to Michigan. Companies can now move in knowing that they would have a ready workforce looking for jobsno matter what the pay.

Considering the recent closing of Hostess it should be plain for all to understand that modern unions don’t have the same goals of their predecessors. Providing decent jobs for the greatest number of people is no longer the goal of most unions.  Unions would rather see a company go out of business than end forced unionism.

Too many unions these days reflect the sentiment of the International Association of Machinists (IAM) when they and other unions went on strike against the now defunct Eastern Airlines. Consider the statement of the leader of that union at the end of that strike:

“After 686 days on strike against Eastern Airlines, rank-and-file members of the International Association of Machinists (IAM) and our supporters registered the final piece of our victory against the union-busting drive of the employers when the carrier folded at midnight on January 18, 1991”.

In other words, after almost two years on strike, the union celebrated when Eastern Airlines went out of business and every one of its employees lost their job.

For centuries, Unionism once had a prominent place in Western commerce for a good reason: strength in numbers to improve working conditions. And during the previous century, many of those improvements were made into law at the federal and state level (OSHA, Workman’s Comp, Wage & Hour laws).

But the unionism of today is an anachronism. To much of the public, a union’s main function is to undermine private property rights of owners and stockholders in order to enrich themselves, even if it means the economic ruin of their employer and loss of jobs to those it employees.

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