Union membership in America is at its lowest since the 1930s. Their members number 14.4 million members nationwide, but that number is shrinking, reducing their political clout. It’s no wonder they’re fighting so hard against right to work in states like Michigan and Indiana, and collective bargaining issues in Wisconsin and Ohio. Fortunately, the workers are taking back power. Today, Michigan becomes a right-to-work state, giving workers the right to choose whether or not to join a union.
Right-to-work laws make it illegal for union membership to be a condition of employment. Thus, a worker can choose to join a union if they feel the union would be beneficial, or not to join a union if they think the union isn’t worth the cost of membership. If the unions are providing bang for their membership buck, they should have nothing to fear. However, as the protests above have shown, fear they do. Today, workers are encouraged to wear red in support of unions and, tonight, in a melodramatic twist, a candlelight vigil is being held in Detroit. A vigil? If it’s being held to celebrate the death of the stranglehold unions have on workers rights, than great, but I doubt that’s what the vigil is about.
To see what right-to-work could mean for Michigan, we can look to the neighboring state of Indiana, where right-to-work took effect in March 2012. According to USA Today, Indiana has seen 19 consecutive months of private-sector job growth and per-capita income grew 3.4% in 2012 (compared to the national rate of 3.4%). More than 100 companies have cited right-to-work as a major factor in deciding whether or not to relocate to Indiana, bringing thousands of jobs. In Michigan’s struggling economy, this could make a huge difference.
There are some who thought right-to-work couldn’t happen in Michigan, home of the United Auto Workers and traditional union stronghold. Today, these workers are free to join a union or remain independent from them as they choose, but unions will have to earn their dues. Whatever these workers decide, it’s a win for Michigan workers!