December 12 2012
In an era of antigrowth policies in Washington, D.C., the vote yesterday in Michigan to become a right-to-work state was a bit of holiday cheer.
The vote is good news on many fronts. It is good news first and foremost because it stands to improve the economy of Michigan and with it the lives of those who live and work in the state. An excellent piece Monday in the Washington Times explained that the right-to-work movement in Michigan was partly inspired by what happened in neighboring Indiana after it became a right-to-work state:
Since Gov. Mitch Daniels, a Republican, signed the legislation making [Indiana] the nation’s 23rd right-to-work state in early February, Indiana has added about 43,000 jobs, while Michigan has lost about 7,300, said Vincent Vernuccio, director of labor policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy in Midland, Mich.
“Indiana absolutely played a role in Michigan,” said [the free-market Mackinac Center’s Vincent] Vernuccio, who was on the ground in Lansing Monday as protesters steadily gathered and police erected barricades near the state Capitol in anticipation of major protests as the GOP-run state Legislature returns to work Tuesday. Mr. Snyder, a former high-tech executive who previously had been cool to the measure, is expected to sign the measure into law later this week. Mr. Snyder himself has cited the fear of being at a competitive disadvantage with Indiana — the first state in the industrial Midwest to embrace right-to-work — as key to his change of heart on the issue.
“They’ve had 90 companies in the pipeline for economic development say this was a factor in deciding to look to come to Indiana,” Mr. Snyder told reporters in explaining his shift. “That’s thousands of jobs. We need more and better jobs in Michigan.”
The vote was good news because it ended the unions’ ability to extract compulsory dues from those who do not join a union. This, as you can imagine, is an important revenue stream for unions. Not only do union bosses live the good life, but much of this money goes to Democratic candidates.
A Republican in a union shop would end up having money taken from her paycheck to support candidates who did not represent her views.
And the vote was good news because, once again, it showed that determination can triumph over vicious opposition from unions intent on preserving their privileges.
And finally it is good news because it will force unions to compete for resources. Calling the Michigan vote "a modest reform," the editors of National Review observe:
Right-to-work laws do not necessarily hobble unions; rather, they force unions to compete for resources and prove their value to their workers. Some unions provide obvious value: In places in which private-sector unions already are strongly established, right-to-work laws have in fact had little effect on union membership. The critical difference is that workers have a choice. This is a principle that should be codified in law in every state, and at the federal level as well. Someday, an ambitious Republican congressional majority should simply repeal the corrosive National Labor Relations Act and be done with it. But until that time, the right will proceed state by state.
And that's the point: unions are not outlawyed but in the future they are going to have to provide a reason for joining. And people who don't join won't have to pay dues.