Terry Bowman has worked for the Ford Motor Co. for over 26 years. For most of that time, state law and collective bargaining agreements forced him to pay dues to the United Auto Workers union. That started to change in 2012, when Michigan became a right-to-work state.
Once his UAW contract expired in September 2015, Terry could exercise the rights, freedoms and protections that came with Michigan’s right- to-work law. He used the Mackinac Center’s website for instructions on how to withdraw his UAW membership.
“I believe strongly in our constitutional right to the freedom of association – which means the freedom to not associate,” Terry said. “The UAW of today is not the UAW of our fathers and grandfathers. It just wasn’t right that I was forced to pay an outside, third-party organization my hard-earned money simply in order to work.”
In the past five years, a federal investigation found widespread corruption in the UAW. A dozen senior leaders, including two former presidents, were convicted of embezzling more than $1 million in union funds. They spent the money on luxury items, travel to exotic locations and a retirement home — built with nonunion labor — for an ex-president.
Terry was present at the bill signing in December 2012 that made Michigan a right-to-work state, giving hundreds of thousands of union members the right to opt out of membership and fees. In the past decade, over 140,000 people in Michigan have left their union, including 10,000 UAW members.
But last November, Democrats won the governorship and narrow majorities in the state House and Senate. Organized labor has been clear about its top goal – to repeal Michigan’s right-to-work law. Most Michigan voters support the law, however, and even union households support it by a 2-1 margin.
“It’s amazing to me that this new administration wants to strip away the very rights, freedoms, and protections that were granted to Michigan union workers a decade ago,” Terry said. “Once again, we would be forced to financially support private sector unions, whether they do a good job, a bad job, or are under federal criminal investigation.”
Terry will do everything he can to defend the law. He thinks it is good for workers and unions.
“By exercising our right to work, we are holding unions answerable and accountable for their actions. And by doing that, we are actually making them better for everybody in thelong run.”