Michigan Guts Democracy and Now Aims for Workers’ Paychecks

It’s not enough that Michigan’s Republican Gov. Rick Snyder took away basic democratic rights of cities and towns by imposing a “financial martial law” that can virtually abolish a local government in favor of an unelected Snyder appointee.

Now, extremists in the state are pushing for passage of a so-called right to work law that would limit the ability of the workers to maintain or attain the middle class. A new study by University of Michigan research scientist Roland Zullo illustrates how such a law would be bad economics for working families. Despite supporters’ claims, “right to work” (RTW) is a misnomer—”it has nothing to do with the right of a person to seek and accept gainful employment,” writes Zullo. Further, the law would not fix Michigan’s economic woes.

Like Michigan, nearly every state in the union has lost manufacturing jobs over the last six to eight years… Our economic problems in Michigan are due primarily to the woes in the auto industry, which RTW would not fix. When making location decisions businesses rate factors such as the quality of the regional workforce, the regulatory environment, and tax incentives before ever considering RTW laws.

Further, by limiting membership in unions, the law would cut unions’ ability to act as a bargaining agent for workers.

[U]nions use their collective power to gain a more equitable share from production, and also to negotiate rules that improve the level of justice at work. Under RTW laws, existing unions would direct resources toward internal member mobilizing in an effort to retain this role.

A second recognized role for labor is in the political system. Labor unions have a long history of pursuing legislation that benefits all wage-earners: higher minimum wage laws, universal health care, health and safety protections, to name a few. Union’s leverage to achieve gains in these areas is directly related to their ability to mobilize support during the political cycle. As such, unions operate telephone banks, engage in member education, and canvass communities to inform their members and the public to get out the vote. Under RTW laws we can expect resources for these activities to diminish, resulting in lower voter turnout among the working class and a political system that is less responsive to Michigan’s non-rich.

A system less responsive to “Michigan’s non-rich” means more response to the very wealthy. And that’s what right to work for less laws are all about.

Read the full study, “What ‘Right to Work’ Would Mean for Michigan,” here. Check out why right-to-work for less is wrong for Michigan here.