Five reasons Michigan is right to pass Right to Work

December 6, 2012

Five reasons Michigan is right to pass Right to Work

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder Tuesday said Right to Work legislation is on his agenda for "thoughtful discussions." Today, he suggested he'd sign Right to Work legislation into law. Lansing lawmakers indicate they'll likely land such a bill on his desk.

Predictably, Michigan labor union leaders -- and their neighbors from nearby Illinois -- are less than jazzed at the prospect of the passage of a "Right to Work" bill. Leaders of the United Auto Workers rallied at the Michigan Capitol today to reiterate they would rather not grant auto workers a say in whether to join the union, thank you very much.

It's unlikely that a union rally or two will derail Right to Work in Michigan; Republicans have a 26 to 12 majority in the Michigan Senate and a 64 to 46 majority in the Michigan House. More importantly, Michigan legislators have substantive reasons to stay the course:

1. Michigan can't afford to lose out any longer to neighboring Indiana.

According to the Mackinac Center for Public Policy as cited in a Wall Street Journal editorial today, Michigan has lost 7,300 jobs since January, while next-door Indiana, which became a Right to Work state earlier this year, has a record number of businesses choosing to expand or set up in the state -- 220 companies that will create some 21,000 new jobs, to be exact.

2. Indiana is not the only Right to Work success story.

According to a Nov. 9 blog post on American Enterprise Ideas, Right to Work states have created four times as many jobs as forced union states since 2009. Mark Perry writes:

[A]lmost three out of every four jobs added to U.S. payrolls have been in Right to Work states (1.86 million out of 2.59 million), even though those 22 states represent only 38.8% of the U.S. population (120 million). In contrast, only about one of every four new jobs were created in forced-unionism states (730,000), even though more than 61% of Americans live in those 28 states (189 million). Relative to their population, the Right to Work states have been job-creating powerhouses during the recovery, and forced union states haven’t even come close to “carrying their weight” in terms of their share of the population.

Oklahoma became a Right to Work state in 2001 -- and, since then, jobs have increased and wages have gone up in our state.

3. Right to Work is flat-out more fair than forced unionization.

It's rare for liberals to rail against "choice" -- but, by opposing Right to Work, they're doing just that. As Gov. Snyder takes pains to explain in a blog post on his website, Right to Work does not end collective bargaining in Michigan nor does it necessarily shrink union membership. Presumably, content union members will remain enrolled as members and continue to pay dues. Right to Work simply grants workers the freedom to choose for themselves whether to join a union. More from Gov. Snyder's office:

Today in Michigan, workers who choose not to pay union dues can lose their jobs under some union contracts. In other words, if they want to work, they have to join a union and pay dues, which can amount to one to two percent of their wages.

Under freedom to work, Michiganders will have the freedom to choose whether or not to join a union. They won't be forced to pay union dues if they don't want to, and they won't lose their jobs because of it. And if they want to pay dues voluntarily, they have the freedom to do that, too.

4. Michiganders want Right to Work legislation.

A majority of Michiganders -- 51 percent -- support Right to Work legislation, while just 41 percent oppose it, according to a Mitchell Research and Communication poll released exclusively to the Detroit News Tuesday. Pollster Steve Mitchell calls that "very solid support." Previous surveys have showed support as high as 55 percent.

5. Voters have a way of supporting politicians who free them up to pursue happiness.

Again and again, union leaders have predicted a merciless backlash against any politicians who support Right to Work or curbs to collective bargaining -- but, again and again, voters demonstrate that, while they appreciate the benefits that have historically accompanied unionization, they appreciate even more the freedom to decide for themselves what union membership is worth to them. From Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who triumphed in his closely watched recall election, to key supporters of Right to Work in the Indiana legislature, who won reelection by wide margins after Right to Work passed in the Hoosier State, politicians have proved that acting on principle isn't necessarily bad politics.

So, why do we at OCPA care whether Michigan legislators pass Right to Work? Aren't states in competition with one another to attract more companies, jobs and workers? Well, yes -- and, given the relative exclusivity of the Right to Work club at the moment, RTW does give Oklahoma an edge in that competition over, say, Michigan. As advocates for free enterprise, though, we understand that economics is not a zero-sum game. So that I may have more, it's not necessary that you have less. Entrepreneurs create wealth; they don't just redistribute it. Furthermore, the number of entrepreneurs is not fixed; the more states implement enterprise-friendly policies, the more Oklahomans and Hoosiers and Michiganders might just be willing to risk their own start-ups -- and that's good for everybody.