If you read the media, you know that unions have organized a few Starbucks locations and a variety of media companies. Attempts to unionize Amazon, Google, Tesla and others have also gotten wide attention.
Attempts to unionize are up, at least compared to the height of the COVID pandemic, when many businesses were shut down. And yes, individual coffee and fast food restaurants are getting unionized.
But this coverage misses the forest for the trees: The percentage of workers choosing to join a union is at the lowest level on record. And a decade after Michigan became a right-to-work state — where workers cannot be forced to join or pay money to a union — it has become ground zero for the collapse of organized labor.
Since 2012, when the right-to-work law passed, nearly all of Michigan’s largest unions have seen huge declines in membership. In what is widely heralded as the birthplace of organized labor, the United Auto Workers has lost 25,000 autoworker members, nearly one-third of the teachers in the Michigan Education Association have fled, and nearly half the state workers represented by AFSCME have resigned from the union.
The Mackinac Center has supported the right of people to fully have a choice when it comes to organized labor in the workplace. Our policy experts have supported the economic case for right-to-work. We have filed lawsuits representing more than a dozen union members who were blocked from leaving. And we have sponsored marketing campaigns and websites informing workers of their rights, helping them navigate the process of opting out and answering their questions about the law.
Since Michigan began giving workers a choice in union membership 10 years ago, well over 100,000 of them have decided to opt out. Contrary to what you might read in the media, worker choice has pushed organized labor to an all-time low in modern history.