This article originally appeared in The Hill March 18, 2023.
Michigan is about to become, once again, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Big Labor.
Fresh off their narrow election victories in November, Democratic majorities in the state legislature have joined with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to repeal the state’s decade-old right-to-work law, which ensures that no worker can be fired if they decide not to join a union. The House passed the repeal March 8, and the Senate followed suit this week, and Whitmer appears ready to send right-to-work to oblivion. This about-face, which is deeply unpopular with voters, will reverse Michigan’s hard-won economic progress.
The benefits of Michigan’s right-to-work law are unmistakable, even if unions and their Democratic allies would rather not talk about them. Going back decades, right-to-work states have seen faster population growth, faster job growth, and faster income growth. It’s the result of giving workers the freedom to choose for themselves whether to join a union. That freedom leads to a more dynamic economy, while giving businesses a much stronger reason to come to Michigan or expand their operations in the state.
The benefits of right-to-work laws can be seen across the country. From 2012 to 2021, median household income rose 36.5 percent higher in states with right-to-work protections than the average for states without them. Unemployment has dropped by more than a third, once again better than in non-right-to-work states. And Michigan has seen a bigger drop in poverty than all but two states that force workers to pay unions.
What’s more, the right-to-work law has turned around Michigan’s manufacturing fortunes. My organization’s research shows that the portion of manufacturing jobs in Michigan counties is 26.1 percent higher than it would have been without the law. In neighboring Ohio, which doesn’t have a right-to-work law, counties saw a 30 percent decrease. Michigan is likely adding manufacturing jobs at Ohio’s expense. That makes sense: When given a choice between a right-to-work state and a forced-unionization state, businesses typically will choose the former.
What could justify reversing this progress? Money and power, evidently. Since 2012, a staggering 140,000 Michigan workers have opted out of union membership, depriving unions of millions of dollars in revenue. Without that money, union spending on politics is more limited. But after Democrats’ across-the-board wins in November, unions are going all-in on policies that guarantee them more money and power — even if it means driving businesses and families away, as was the case before the right-to-work law passed.
Sixty-thousand private-sector workers who’ve left their unions will now be compelled to send their hard-earned money to union coffers with every paycheck or be fired. Unions can turn around and spend that money electing more Democrats, who will continue to pass more policies that tip the scales toward unions — and away from workers and job creators.
Unions aren’t taking any chances. They’re already pushing other policies that will entrench their power. That includes a bill that would subsidize union dues with taxpayer dollars by making dues fully tax refundable, which appears blatantly designed to let unions take even more money from workers. Another bill under consideration would exempt unions from political action committee contribution limits, while giving them special treatment and payouts when supporting candidates.
In 2012, Michigan sought to avoid this fate with the passage of its right-to-work law, restoring freedom and economic vitality. Just over 10 years later, the dream of a brighter economic future and freedom from union coercion is fading.
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