Ever since Michigan became a right-to-work state seven years ago, the Mackinac Center has spent an immense amount of time and effort promoting and defending the right of people to work without being forced to pay union dues. This meant a years-long marketing campaign, roughly a dozen legal battles, and continuous research to evaluate the effects of the law.
In that time, union members have left their organizations in droves. The Michigan Education Association has lost one-third of its membership. The state AFSCME branch is down 37%. The SEIU has lost more than 50%. Each state government employee union is down at least 15% in membership. And this is at a time of sustained job growth. Many workers apparently believe their union dues aren’t worth the cost.
In 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed the rights of all public sector workers nationwide by ruling in Janus v. AFSCME that they also have the “right to work.” No government worker — teacher, bus driver, janitor, police officer, firefighter, state employee, etc. — can be forced to pay dues or fees to a union.
Once again, the Mackinac Center took up the challenge, collaborating with groups all across the country to take what worked in Michigan and spread it nationwide. The efforts have paid off.
We’ve reached millions of public sector union members through digital marketing, direct mail, phone calls and door knocking. Thousands of union members have left their organizations because of these efforts. And each of the four largest national unions in the country that represent government workers has seen a drop in membership.
Workers across the U.S. write to thank us for helping them navigate the obstacles unions put in their way as they try to exercise their constitutional right. Several have joined the effort, even making phone calls and sending out letters on behalf of the “My Pay, My Say” campaign to educate workers everywhere.
Unions try to keep workers paying dues so that they will have a larger war chest to play politics with. In the 2018 midterm elections — primarily in congressional, gubernatorial and state legislative races — unions are estimated to have spent $2 billion. That’s up from $1.6 billion during the 2016 presidential election cycle.
All citizens and private groups should have the right to participate in elections, and unions are no different. But the difference between unions and other groups is they can coerce dues and fees from workers. The Janus case ensures they can no longer do this to public sector employees, and it’s now up to these workers to decide how they want to spend their money.
The Mackinac Center will lead the effort in educating them about their new rights.