Michigan voters on Tuesday rejected a proposal that would have allowed public sector unions to “challenge any law — past, present, or future — limiting their benefits and powers.” The initiative would have also permanently barred Michigan from becoming a right-to-work state.
Unions raised over $20 million to pass Proposal 2, but it failed as conservative and liberal papers in the state alike encouraged Michigan voters to vote “no” on Proposal 2 in the interest of preserving the state’s economy.
The Detroit Free Press, an “ardent” supporter of unions, wrote, “Michigan just can’t afford those kinds of limitations in an era when debt from pension and health obligations to current and retired employees are pushing many local governments to the brink of insolvency.”
Republican Governor Rick Snyder has been enacting fiscal reforms, and the Proposal — had it passed — would have forced him to raise taxes.
As Bloomberg News notes, the Proposal’s failure may now force Snyder to push for a right-to-work law in Michigan.
Ever since Indiana became the first right-to-work state in the Rust Belt earlier this year — and 23rd in the country — Governor Snyder has been under tremendous pressure from his party, which controls both legislative chambers, to push a right-to-work law in Michigan as well. Snyder resisted because he wanted to concentrate on tax and regulatory changes and avoid a distracting fight with unions. But conservative lawmakers are going to interpret the resounding defeat for the ballot proposition as essentially a mandate for a right-to-work law in the state. It is now unclear whether Snyder will have the will or the clout to hold them at bay.
Economists have found Michigan has suffered economically because it is not a right-to-work state:
… research by economist Hari Singh of Grand Valley State University, the auto industry, for example, would have seen a 25 percent gain in jobs since 1965. Instead, it lost 56.6 percent just from 2002 to 2009, shrinking its work force by 165,777.
Automobile manufacturing has been booming in Southern states that have right-to-work laws, which has likely not gone unnoticed in Michigan.