Thursday, December 6, 2012

Right-to-Work Legislation Coming to Michigan

The right-to-work movement keeps gathering steam. The latest heavily unionized state to promote it is Michigan.

We'll have more to say on this perhaps tomorrow, but for now here's the news. Employee freedom of choice concerning whether or not to join a union is headed to another midwestern state and the UAW's home turf. Who'd a thunk it?

Michigan is still primarily a blue state, having just voted to re-elect President Obama, but it has a Republican governor who finally seems to be getting the message that a lousy economy needs to be addressed in every reasonable and conceivable manner.

Although it's been too long in coming, at long last it appears to have arrived. Are you watching, Ohio and Illinois? If not, you should be.

Michigan's Leaders Back Right-to-Work Law has the breaking news:

"Michigan's governor and top legislative leaders declared their joint support on Thursday for right-to-work legislation that would ban contracts requiring all employees to pay union dues.

Bills are expected to be introduced Thursday in the Michigan Senate and House with supporters predicting swift passage in a lame-duck legislative session by the end of the year. The GOP has a majority in both chambers.

Hundreds of opponents gathered at the state Capitol in Lansing in protest. It was expected to be the beginning of a fierce fight between labor and business interests over the future of union rights in the birthplace of the powerful United Auto Workers union.

Michigan State Police closed the Capitol building midday to new visitors after protesters attempted to rush onto one of the chamber floors, according to a spokeswoman. In the process, some of the protesters were pepper-sprayed, and eight people were arrested as of 1 p.m., police said. . . .

The passage of right-to-work legislation in Michigan would be the latest blow to organized labor across the Midwest. Earlier this year, Indiana passed similar right-to-work legislation, and unions failed to recall Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker after he pushed through restrictions on public-employee union rights last year. . . . And voters in Michigan rejected a ballot proposal that would have enshrined collective-bargaining rights in the state constitution. . . .

"Right-to-work is a big sign that Michigan is open for business," said Vincent Vernuccio, director of labor policy at the conservative Mackinac Center.

He noted that while labor had been unable to persuade voters to back its agenda in Michigan and Wisconsin, both states supported the re-election of President Barack Obama and other Democratic candidates. "You're seeing a sea change in the country that these votes that are going Democratic are also not rubber-stamping the union issues," Mr. Vernuccio said.

Republicans in Michigan framed the legislation as a bid to improve fairness and equity for workers who may or may not want to pay to join a union. Labor leaders called the legislation an affront to unions, which would still be responsible for representing the interests of all workers, whether they pay union dues or not. . . .

Until this week, Mr. Snyder had called the issue divisive and inappropriate to consider during the state's fragile economic recovery. After discussions with business and labor leaders and prompted by the most conservative wing of the state's GOP, the governor said he now believes that right-to-work legislation will make Michigan more competitive in attracting new business and additional jobs to the state.

He also cited the influence of Indiana, which became a right-to-work state earlier this year.

Michigan would also stand in contrast to Ohio, where unions were able to turn back a Republican-supported measure in 2011 that would have eliminated most public employees' collective-bargaining rights. In that case, unions overturned the law through a ballot referendum.

By contrast, voters in Michigan rejected a union-backed measure in November known as Proposal 2 that would have amended the state constitution to protect collective-bargaining rights and acted as a firewall against future right-to-work laws."

Summing Up

States are beginning to understand that their economies need every assist possible. Indiana is gaining ground rapidly in the midwest, and it's no coincidence that right-to-work legislation was enacted there earlier this year.

If employees want to join a union, that's their right.

But if they don't want to join the union, why should government pass laws that in effect force them to do so?

And with respect to labor conditions, where will companies in the future decide to locate their new factories? Indiana or Ohio? Indiana or Illinois?

Maybe soon Indiana versus Michigan will be a tie.

More to come.

Thanks. Bob.

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