Workers need a choice

This letter appeared in The Detroit News on May 10, 2001 at

Workers need a choice

The April 29 letter "Blame Prop A" mischaracterized the Mackinac Center for Public Policy's position on labor unions. Our scholars support the right of workers to organize, join and support labor unions.

However, it is a legitimate policy question to ask if anyone -- especially teachers -- should be forced to join or support a labor union to keep a job. Every public school district in Michigan demands that teachers either join or support their local school employee union, regardless of whether the individual teachers support union goals, agree with union positions on political and social issues, or could make more money outside of the union's rigid, industrial-style, seniority-based pay scales.

Seventeen states do not have compulsory unionism for teachers. Seven of those actually prohibit school districts from bargaining with unions. The other 10 states take a neutral approach, neither prohibiting nor mandating collective bargaining in schools.

Mackinac Center and other research suggests that Michigan teachers and students would benefit from a government-neutral approach to school unions. For example, a recent RAND Corp. study noted that Texas and North Carolina, states without compulsory unionism, have shown the most improvement in educational test scores. Georgia teacher salaries have increased 24 percent during the last four years without collective bargaining.

Under voluntary unionism, Michigan teachers would be free to organize and join unions, and no teacher would be forced to support a union in order to keep his or her job.

Joseph G. Lehman

Executive Vice-President

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, Midland