The likely passage of legislation that would make Michigan the most recent “right-to-work” state is a blow to the organized labor movement and will ultimately lead more states down the same path in an attempt to make their states more attractive to corporations in search of homes for new business ventures. Unionists turned out in force on the Capitol lawn to voice their unhappiness with what they believe is a politically motivated action designed only to deliver a body blow to unions.
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican, said during an appearance on Fox and Friends Tuesday morning that “The passage of this legislation means more jobs for Michigan,” and went on to say “ this will move Michigan forward, this is good legislation” during the discussion over the right-to-work (RTW) law. Snyder has come under intense pressure from organized labor and Democrats since it has become clear he supported RTW.
President Barack Obama came out strongly against RTW during an appearance in Michigan Monday, saying that “These so called right-to-work laws, they don’t have to do with economics; they have to do with politics,” Obama continued “What they’re really talking about is giving you the right to work for less money.”
During Snyder’s interview he accused Obama of misrepresenting the legislation during his speech in front of the unionized workforce of a Daimler Detroit Diesel plant in Redford Township, Michigan when he said “What we shouldn’t be doing is try to take away your rights to bargain for better wages.” Snyder pointed out that the legislation has no impact on collective bargaining rights, and went on to say that he supports the right of workers to make their own decisions, including whether or not they join a union. “Workers should be able to determine for themselves if they join a union, not be forced to.”
Thousands of union members occupied the Michigan State Capitol Building, chanting pro union slogans and arguing the move is a blatant effort to bust the unions.
“It’s really a slap in the face to organized labor,” said Bill Lichtenwald, president of Teamsters Local 20 in Toledo, Ohio who made the trip to Lansing to support the union. “It’s just an attempt to financially strap the local unions. They might be able to hurt our pocketbooks, but they’re not going to hurt our message, and that is justice in the workplace.”
Despite the attempt to stop the passage of the RTW law, there is no chance the bill will not become law. Republicans hold commanding majorities in both the State House and Senate and so, while union members display their rage clearly for all to witness, Snyder awaits the bill so he can sign it into law.
Those that support RTW point to the impact neighboring states, including most recently Indiana, that have passed RTW have had on Michigan’s job market, and argue that to compete with them for new businesses they need to pass this law.
They point to Android, a Michigan based company that decided to turn to Indiana for expansion, as an example. One of the deciding factors was that Indiana is now a RTW state. “Indiana became a right-to-work state and (it) offers us a competitive location,” Android Vice President of Human Resources David Donnay told the Indiana Economic Development Corp. Android invested $7.3 million and is planning to hire 70 employees.
Those opposed to the passage of RTW point to studies, including one from the University of Michigan, on the impact on incomes of workers when nonunionized. The progressive outcry has been loud and fast, and they have vowed revenge in the next election cycle.
The reality is that both sides are correct in their position- average wages are lower and fewer people receive employer provided insurance benefits in RTW states; however it is also true that job creation is stronger and average unemployment is lower in RTW states. With both positions being accurate, the question becomes which is the priority (higher wages for fewer workers or more workers at a lower average wage), and that will be different for each individual.
Right-to-work states will likely continue to add jobs at a more rapid rate than non-RTW states for the very reasons that pro-union voices argue are their reasons for opposition. It is because of the lower wages and healthcare costs that companies choose to locate in states with right-to-work laws. To compete for those jobs states must be on the same footing when pitching their state as a place for a company to locate.
It is clear that to create permanent jobs states must move go the RTW path-unless they prefer to have fewer jobs with a higher average wage for those working. The reality is that more people working, even at a lower average wage, creates a larger tax base which then leads to increased revenue for the city, county and state where the now working individual resides.
The anger and emotion among those opposed increases as the voting continues that will result in Michigan becoming the 24th right-to-work state. As the emotion reaches a crescendo, so does the risk of a more confrontational end to this day.
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