This week, the Michigan legislature is expected to give final approval to ground-breaking reforms which will make it the 24th state to enact right-to-work legislation. To longer would Michigan workers be forced, as a condition of employment, to hand over a portion of their hard-earned wages to labor unions. This critical fight for worker freedom is now engaged.
Last week, both the Michigan House and Senate approved legislation that would give both public and private sector employees the choice of whether or not to join a union. Tomorrow is the first day either chamber can approve legislation passed by the other chamber. Republicans have the majority in both chambers and are expected to give quick approval to the bills. Republican Governor Rick Snyder has promised to sign the legislation into law.
Again, this is happening in Michigan.
Currently Michigan, like 27 other states, is a “closed shop.” If you take a job at a company whose workers, perhaps decades ago, voted to form a union, you are required to hand over a portion of your earnings in dues to the union. That obligation will end once Michigan enacts right-to-work legislation. Unions are obviously still allowed, but, going forward, individual workers will be able to decide for themselves whether or not to join.
This is a big step for worker freedom. No longer will workers be coerced into joining a union. No longer will they be forced to see their earnings go to political causes and goals with which they disagree.
The struggle for reform in Wisconsin over the past two years was an important step for worker freedom in that state. But, it only applied to public sector unions. It broke the iron grip public sector unions had on employee paychecks and benefits and helped put the state’s fiscal house in order, but it did nothing to free private sector workers from mandatory union dues.
The fight against public sector unions in Wisconsin was important, in large part, because it was the first state to grant public sector unions collective bargaining rights. Michigan, home to the UAW, is almost a founding state for labor unions in this country. It has a higher percentage of unions members than almost any other state. If union power over individual liberty can be rolled back there, it can be rolled back in Ohio or Pennsylvania, where the GOP controls state government, as well.
The fight for worker freedom in Michigan doesn’t end with the passage of right-to-work legislation, but merely begins. Unions have vowed civil disobedience and have threatened the inevitable lawsuits against the law. They have also vowed to take the issue into the 2014 elections and punish those legislators who support the law.
It’s incumbent on us to ensure they fail yet again. The DC GOP may be surrendering the fight for liberty, but conservatives in the states are leading the fight for reform. Perhaps that is where our energy should go.