Right-to-work was never about unions. It was always about you. Remember that as it comes under attack in 2023, when Democrats hold all the gavels in Lansing.
They’ve put right-to-work in their sights and named it as an early target. Let’s talk about how we got here.
For 10 years now, the Michigan worker has been free to join unions, or not to join them. Free to opt in or opt out of paying a union. Joining cannot be a condition of employment. It’s your choice.
At one point, right-to-work was the impossible dream, far outside the Overton Window in Michigan. Just 120 years ago, trying to work without a union card, or during a union strike, cost people their lives and livelihoods.
The first workers to assert their right to work — coal miners in Pennsylvania during the Coal Strike of 1902 — did so at great personal risk.
Some of the “scab” workers, as they were called, liked their jobs just fine and didn’t want to strike.
Others were crowded out of nonmining jobs by striking miners and found work in the coal mines.
Others were recruited from out of town.
All were targeted by the union, which mobilized their striking brethren against them for the breach in solidarity.
In Ray Stannard Baker’s chapter on right-to-work in “The Muckrakers,” he interviews Charles Monie, a mine engineer who refused to strike.
“Unionism is alright when it is kept within bounds,” Monie said. “But when it says to any man, ‘You can’t work until we give you permission,’ and when it plans to destroy property, I claim that the individual has a right to quit. …. I have a right to work when I like, for what I like, and for whom I like.”
Right-to-work was signed by Gov. Rick Snyder on Dec. 11, 2012, and it took effect March 28, 2013. As the Mackinac Center said that day, “Right-to- work is about making Michigan home again.”
It’s about the right of the individual to work at any willing employer, without being compelled to join or pay a third organization.
It’s about people’s right not to pay any group they don’t feel like joining. Right-to-work is not anti- union. It’s pro-individual.
Union membership has declined in Michigan, from 17.5% of workers in 2012 to 15.2% in 2020, a decrease of 13%. Solidarity is a choice. These days, unions have to earn it, not enforce it, with the help of your employer.
Right-to-work is what made the difference.