The Michigan legislature made history today when it passed legislation making the state the 24th to enact right-to-work laws protecting workers. Workers in Michigan can no longer be compelled to join a union as a condition of employment. Perhaps more surprising than the measure’s passage, though, is it’s genesis. The new law is the direct result of an epic strategic miscalculation by the state’s union bosses.
Spooked by the success Gov. Walker was having in reforming the state’s public sector unions, unions in MI hatched a plan to put an initiative on the November ballot. The initiative would enshrine public sector collective bargaining rights in the state constitution. GOP Gov. Rick Synder, who largely has governed as a moderate, warned the unions not to push the initiative. He even threatened to bring up the right to work (RTW) issue if they went forward with the ballot measure.
The unions obviously rejected this advice. A knowledgeable source close to the events in Michigan told Breitbart News that almost immediately after the unions launched their initiative a small group of activists, legislators and businesses began meeting to plot a legislative strategy for the RTW bill.
They, very smartly, secured a key commitment from the Governor. He agreed to support the RTW effort if the union initiative, known as Proposal 2, failed. On election day, the initiative failed spectacularly.
58% of Michiganders voted against the union initiative. The unions had spent tens of millions of their members’ dues promoting the initiative. Yet, the same electorate that strongly backed Barack Obama’s reelection and increased Democrats’ standing at all levels of government overwhelmingly opposed the unions.
I guess they were right to be spooked that the public was moving away from them.
My source told me that the scale of the unions’ defeat made the RTW bill almost unstoppable. As the vote neared, some legislators started getting cold feet about backing the legislation. On the eve of the vote last week, Gov. Snyder publicly reaffirmed his support of the issue and promised to sign the legislation into law. This move stiffened the wavering legislators, culminating in today’s historic vote.
It is impossible to overstate the significance of this. Michigan is home to the powerful UAW. The state’s rates of unionization are among the highest in the country. For something like 20 years, no new states passed right-to-work laws. With today’s passage in Michigan and Indiana’s passage last year, two states in just two years have passed RTW.
There are many lessons here for conservative. I’ll just mention the most important. Even when defeat seems littered around us, there are always opportunities for victory. We must be ready to seize them.