In November, F. Vincent Vernuccio, who is the director of labor policy at the Mackinac Center, took part in a debate. He was joined at the Northwood University event by former Northwood faculty member and current Ithaca College instructor Jim Johnson.

The question for the debate was “Are employees not paying a union free riders?” Vernuccio argued that employees in unionized workplaces who do not want to associate with the union are actually forced riders. They are forced to accept union representation whether they want it or not, he said, a situation that occurs in both right-to-work and non-right-to-work states. 

In right-to-work states, a union cannot get a worker fired for not paying it, Vernuccio explained. States with this protection are not only freer, but better off economically.

Vernuccio used Mackinac research to show that right-to-work states have lower unemployment, and higher population, job and wage growth. When the cost of living is factored in, they also have higher wages. 

Vernuccio asked members of the mostly college-aged crowd if they could remember Michigan a few short years ago. He reminded them of Michigan’s “lost decade,” when the state was losing jobs and people and wages were declining. He noted that right-to-work wasn’t the single silver bullet that brought Michigan back. But it did play a big role that,  combined with other sensible tax and regulatory policy, helped turn the state around.