Right-to-Work on the National Stage

Tales from the Road: Part II

“You only get flak when you are over the target.” That old saying held true on a recent stop of Mackinac’s “You Can, Too” tour in the state of Washington.

In early September, two of Mackinac’s sister think tanks, the Cascade Policy Institute of Oregon and the Freedom Foundation of Washington, invited me to speak at several events in the Pacific Northwest. Policy folks, activists and citizens all came out to hear how right-to-work was accomplished in Michigan. 

Like many other states, Oregon is trying to bring freedom to workers. A group of Oregon activists, armed with research from the Cascade Policy Institute, are attempting to put right-to-work for government employees on the ballot in November 2014. 

Similarly in Washington at the Freedom Foundation, many are convinced of the economic benefits of liberty and hope to achieve labor reform in their state. 

On the day of my final presentation, I pulled up to Vancouver’s Clark City College. My worries of not being able to find the building were immediately allayed when I saw about two dozen angry protesters holding signs and blocking the parking lot. Point one for the “You Can, Too” tour.

My wife, Katie, was driving; she admittedly has much more experience with protestors after running large events for the last eight years for the Institute for Humane Studies and Americans for Prosperity. Without listening to her warnings, I opened the window to thank the demonstrators for coming out.  A man, clad in a hard hat and orange union shirt, spat on my hand when I extended it for a handshake. 

After going inside and finding some much needed hand sanitizer, we found the host of the event. Everyone was a little concerned about the protesters outside who were blocking traffic and trying to intimidate the attendees. 

As the Cascade Policy Institute and the Freedom Foundation prepared to start the event, the same protesters stormed in and tried to hijack it.

This gave rise to a genuine opportunity: to debate the protestors on the spot. 

At one point we did achieve a back and forth — I put aside the microphone as the protestors did not have one. But before long the chanting replaced any real conversation. It was clear: the protestors did not have a strong argument against right-to-work and the benefits of freedom. Point two for the tour.

Police eventually arrived on the scene and two protesters who refused to leave were arrested. After all the activity, the presentation went on as scheduled.  

Because of the spectacle created by the protests, the event soon made national news in The Blaze and the Franklin Center’s Watchdog Wire. Jeremy Lott of Real Clear Politics and Sean Higgins of The Washington Examiner also picked up on the story. 

These articles highlighted the work of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, the Freedom Foundation and the Cascade Policy Institute in regards to right-to-work. Point three.  What was intended to disrupt and intimidate had the opposite result — it shored national resolve. The backbone of those working to bring choice to union members was stiffened.

Michigan’s victory has granted hope to forced unionism states around the country. Because of the victory here, states which may not have thought labor reform was possible now have more tools and a heightened spirit to challenge the forced-dues status quo.

For part one of this story see Mackinac.org/18591