Ten reasons why Michigan’s right-to-work law matters

December 12, 2012

The Post reports: “Michigan enacted far-reaching legislation Tuesday that threatens to cripple the power of organized labor in a state that was a hub of union might during the heyday of the nation’s industrial dominance …. The “right to work” effort illustrates the power of Republicans to use state legislative majorities won in 2010 to pursue their policy preferences, even after losing a bitter presidential election …. The defeat is devastating for organized labor, which for decades has been waging an uphill battle against declining membership and dwindling influence.”


Union members protest in Michigan. (Detroit Free Press-Romain Blanquart/Associated Press)

The smack-down of Big Labor is noteworthy in a number of respects:

1. Union thugs resorted to violence that the mainstream media largely ignored and the White House refused to condemn. The association with union thuggery is a problem for “progressives.”

2. Democrats soon will have to find a substitute for the money and foot soldiers supplied by organized labor in campaigns. Who will replace Big Labor as the Democrats’ main patron – Big Business? If so, that will take a serious reorientation in policy..

3.  Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s effort to curtail public union bargaining rights and Indiana’s embrace of right-to-work legislation were not flukes. Increasingly unions are viewed as antithetical to fiscal sobriety for state government and job creation for the private sector.

4. Proponents of right-to-work laws have figured out how to move swiftly and effectively. The Post reported: “The measure is attached to an appropriations bill, which exempts it from being taken to a referendum. And it excludes firefighters and police, groups that were critical in overturning Ohio’s law.”

5. Right-to-work laws in Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan will exercise competitive pressure on neighboring states. Which one is next — Minnesota?

6. The Democrats embrace of Big Labor is as baffling to young voters as Republicans’ opposition to gay marriage. Young Americans  who have come of age in an era in which the vast majority of employees work in non-union workplaces are not going to mourn the loss of union chieftains’ power.

7. Public employee unions become more vulnerable as the rest of the workforce becomes  less unionized. As we saw in Wisconsin, public employee benefits, work rules and job security are increasingly seen as out of kilter with the taxpayers who fund the cushy jobs. It is hard to imagine that other states won’t follow Wisconsin’s lead.

8. Liberal-backed legislation on work hours, minimum wage, safety and discrimination have contributed to the downfall of unions by offering a raft of protections to all workers, without the cost of union dues.

9. This should remind conservatives that tax rates are not the sole factor in economic growth and job creation. Like unionization, poorly designed regulatory and trade policy can inhibit wealth creation as much as a bump in marginal tax rates.

10. The essential principle behind right-to-work legislation should not get lost in the shuffle: No one should be forced to join a union against his or her will. It is antithetical to a free people to have the state invest unions with the power to collude on labor costs and take union dues against employees’ will. Liberals are in favor of forcing employees to join a union; conservatives are in favor of allowing employees to choose not to and to protect employees’ property rights against compulsory dues deduction.

 

Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.
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Jennifer Rubin | December 12, 2012