MIDLAND, Mich. — Unions have lost more than 143,000 members since Michigan’s right-to-work law went into effect, according to analysis of state and federal reports from 15 major unions. Numbers compiled by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy found that there are 26.5% fewer people paying dues to the state’s largest unions today than there was in 2012.
“As the new Legislature debates whether to repeal Michigan’s right-to-work law, they should wrestle with the fact that the law is overwhelmingly popular — supported by Michigan voters 3-to-1 — and that more than 143,000 people have decided their union wasn’t working for them,” said Jarrett Skorup, senior director of marketing and communications at the Mackinac Center. “Forcing many of these workers back into unions against their will is bad policy and a violation of their rights.”
This enormous drop in union membership comes even though most of the industries where these unions operate have had steady or growing employment over the past decade. That means there are likely more workers who declined union membership than just the 143,000 former members who opted out. The Michigan branch of the United Auto Workers has lost more than 10,000 members since 2012, despite a 20% increase in the number of workers in auto manufacturing. The Michigan Education Association lost nearly one-third of its membership, even though the number of school employees has remained steady since 2012. Despite a nearly 40% increase in construction workers, the state's largest carpenters’ union still saw a drop in membership.
The only association to gain membership among these 15 major unions in the past decade is the Michigan Nurses Association, which is up 1.6%. Notably, the number of registered nurses in Michigan has increased by more than 10% in the past decade, suggesting the MNA is still seeing plenty of people decline membership.
This Mackinac Center analysis is based on federal LM-2 data and Michigan Civil Service Commission reports. It compares active members, not retirees or students, from 2012 to the most recent data. It is more precise data than that from the Bureau of Labor Statistics survey, which is often cited in the media and shows a smaller drop in union membership over the period. “Michigan’s right-to-work law is very simple — no one can be forced to join or pay dues to a union in order to hold a job,” Skorup said. “And a significant number of former union members have directly benefited from being able to exercise these rights.”
The Mackinac Center for Public Policy is a nonprofit research and educational institute that advances the principles of free markets and limited government. Through our research and education programs, we challenge government overreach and advocate for a free-market approach to public policy that frees people to realize their potential and dreams.
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