Michigan, a historic union stronghold and birthplace of United Auto Workers, has now taken a leap forward in workplace freedom. Last night, Michigan lawmakers passed right-to-work legislation, giving workers in the state the choice to join a union, or not, as they saw best.
The House and Senate must wait five days to vote on each others’ bills, therefore they will reconvene Tuesday to officially pass the legislation. Governor Rick Snyder has pledged to sign the laws if they are passed, and payment of union dues will no longer be a condition of employment in Michigan. They will be the 24th state in the country to do so.
Although some have criticized Michigan lawmakers for legislating the issue so quickly, it is one with which they are familiar and has long been discussed. “We’ve come to the point where this issue is on the table,” Snyder told The Associated Press in an interview. “It’s time to step up and make a decision and not let this fester.” Senate Majority Floor Leader Arlan Meekhof said.
Union members did not remain silent on the issue. Eight people were arrested during last night’s session for resisting and obstructing as they tried to push past troopers guarding the Senate door. With placards and chants of “union buster” and “right-to-work has got to go,” pepper spray was also used on protestors who refused to stop after being asked to do so. Those against workplace freedom had support all the way up to the White House. A White House spokesman said that Obama believes the American economy “is stronger when workers get good wages and good benefits, and he opposes attempts to roll back their rights.”
Unfortunately, that argument does not stand up to even the mildest of scrutiny. Some 90 Michigan companies have relocated to Indiana since that state adopted right-to-work legislation, while Michigan’s economy struggles. Snyder said “That’s thousands of jobs, and we want to have that kind of success in Michigan.” There is nothing preventing Michigan’s workers from joining a union if they so choose, but forced unionization is the antithesis of freedom. This simply makes unions more accountable to their members, as they will actually have to be earned. In a right-to-work state, a member who does not feel membership is worth the cost can simply leave. That is true workplace freedom.