The legislation marks a monumental shift away from union power to "open shop" free labor. Right-to-work laws prohibit workers from being forced to contribute mandatory dues to labor unions in order to gain employment, regardless of whether or not they are members of a union, and prohibit employers from firing workers if they don't join a union. With workers no longer obligated to pay union dues, union membership, revenue, and strength decline.
Predictably, there was no shortage of outrage from union workers this week as they stormed the capital building in Lansing to protest. Teachers walked out of schools and Democratic state senators even walked out on the final vote to approve the initial bills. Union workers and their Democratic allies realize that the transition from a "closed shop" state to a right-to-work state is the second in near fatal blows to Michigan's entrenched union interests.
The first blow came this past November when unions spent tens of millions of dollars in Michigan pushing Proposal 2, a ballot initiative that would have written collective bargaining into the state constitution and in essence outlawed a right-to-work law and limits on union power. Michigan voters defeated the proposal 58% to 42%.
Proposal 2 was defeated because the unions had overreached their hand. Decades ago, unions were important to workers because America's emerging labor markets were less predictable and less safe. But much of the American public now realizes that labor unions are no longer needed in the way they once were, and they don't need to be enshrined in state constitutions.
What's more, many unions have deviated from their original purpose and warped into powerful special interests rather than true representatives of workers' rights.
There is a growing public consensus, seen most recently in Wisconsin, Indiana and now Michigan, that non-right-to-work states can stifle private labor competition and give too much power, politically and financially, to the unions. What right-to-work states have found is that, if given the choice, some, or even many, workers will chose not to join the union. In other words, many workers themselves no longer see the need for mandatory dues and labor union representation. (Continues)