Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) yesterday backtracked on his previous assertion that a union-busting move to pass a so-called “right-to-work” provision into law wasn’t on his agenda, and by the end of the day, both the Michigan House of Representatives and the Michigan state Senate had introduced and passed separate pieces of legislation aimed at the state’s union workforce.
Michigan Republicans are pursuing the laws because Indiana Republicans passed “right-to-work” last year and, according to Snyder, the state needs such a law to remain competitive. In reality, though, such laws have negative effects on workers and little effect on economic growth, and Michigan Republicans are pursuing the laws without public debate:
The legislation: Both the state House and state Senate passed legislation yesterday that prohibits private sector unions from requiring members to pay dues. The Senate followed by immediately passing a law that extends the same prohibition for public sector unions, though firefighters and police officers are exempt. The state House included a budget appropriations measure that is intended to prevent the state’s voters from being able to legally challenge the law through a ballot referendum. Due to state law, both houses are prevented from voting on legislation passed by the other for five days, so neither will be able to fully pass the legislation until Tuesday at the earliest.
The process: Union leaders and Democrats claim that Republicans are pushing the legislation through in the lame-duck session to hide the intent of the measures from citizens, and because the legislation would face more trouble after the new House convenes in January. Michigan Republicans hold a 63-47 advantage in the state House, but Democrats narrowed the GOP majority to just eight seats in November. Six Republicans opposed the House measure; five of them won re-election in 2012 (the sixth retired). And Michigan Republicans have good reason to pursue the laws without public debate. Though the state’s voters are evenly split on whether it should become a right-to-work state, 78 percent of voters said the legislature “should focus on issues like creating jobs and improving education, and not changing state laws or rules that would impact unions or make further changes in collective bargaining.”
The effect: While Snyder and Republicans pitched “right-to-work” as a pro-worker move aimed at improving the economy, studies show such legislation can cost workers money. The Economic Policy Institute found that right-to-work laws cost all workers, union and otherwise, $1,500 a year in wages and that they make it harder for workers to obtain pensions and health coverage. “If benefits coverage in non-right-to-work states were lowered to the levels of states with these laws, 2 million fewer workers would receive health insurance and 3.8 million fewer workers would receive pensions nationwide,” David Madland and Karla Walter from the Center for American Progress wrote earlier this year. And right-to-work laws and the drop in union membership that follows have a significant impact on the middle class. Multiple studies, meanwhile, show that such laws have a negligible impact on economic growth. “Research shows that there is no relationship between right-to-work laws and state unemployment rates, state per capita income, or state job growth,” EPI wrote in a recent report about Michigan. And “right-to-work” laws alsodecrease worker safety and can hurt small businesses.
Union leaders are, of course, aghast at Snyder and the GOP’s right-to-work push.
#MIGov: Michigan Gov. Snyder Calls For Passage Of Anti-Union 'Right-To-Work' Law He Claimed Wasn't On His Agenda | ThinkProgress
After insisting all last year that an anti-labor “right-to-work” law was not on his agenda, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) has changed his mind. This morning, he called on the state legislature to introduce and pass so-called “right-to-work” legislation and promised to sign it should it reach his desk.
Snyder was among the Midwestern Republican governors who leveled an assault on unions in 2011, but right-to-work, which effectively undermines union activities by allowing non-union workers to free-ride on union-negotiated contracts, is a new front in that fight. Indiana passed right-to-work legislation earlier this year, and by following suit, Michigan can remain competitive with its neighbor while also becoming a better place for workers, Snyder claimed in a video posted by The Detroit News:
Though Snyder refers to his agenda as “pro-worker,” a quick glance at studies of “right-to-work” legislation paints a different picture. According to the Economic Policy Institute, right-to-work laws have virtually no impact on job growth and have a negative impact on both union and nonunion workers, reducing wages by up to $1,500 a year. A Ball State University study conducted during Indiana’s push to pass right-to-work found that “no impact is likely” for job growth or wages in the manufacturing sector. Another EPI study suggests that right-to-work laws had a negative impact on Oklahoma’s economy and that right-to-work is “is ineffective as a strategy for increasing a state’s employment.”
The right-to-work experiment failed miserably the last time it was tried in the Midwest. Indiana originally passed right-to-work laws in 1957, but workers hated the new laws so much that they were repealed just eight years later.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has long denied that he has a secret strategy to destroy public sector unions as part of a long-term plan to make Wisconsin a “right-to-work” state where unions are dramatically weakened.
But, with the recall election that could replace Walker barely three weeks away, a remarkable videotape of the governor describing just such as a strategy has surfaced. In it, Walker is seen promising a billionaire campaign donor that the attack on collective-bargaining rights for public-sector unions—which sparked demonstrations and the movement that has forced the recall election—was only “the first step” in a grand plan.
The videotape, shot on January 18, 2011, just days after Walker was sworn in as Wisconsin’s Republican governor and several weeks before he proposed to use a “budget repair” bill to gut union rights, was released Thursday by the documentary filmmaker who filmed it.
“Oh, yeah!” says Walker.
Henricks then asks: “And become a right-to-work [state]?”
Walker replies: “Well, we’re going to start in a couple weeks with our budget adjustment bill. The first step is we’re going to deal with collective bargaining for all public employee unions, because you use divide and conquer… That opens the door once we do that.”
Though he has become known nationally as a militant foe of unions, Walker has always denied that he attacked public sector unions to achieve a political end.
Pro-business conservatives are pursuing an unprecedented assault on the rights of working families at both the national and state levels. Congress and no fewer than 37 state legislatures are pushing through right-to-work or related bills. Some of them are passing. Everywhere, though, the arguments supporting the laws are based on outright falsehoods, some of them, including phrases like ‘forced unionism’, are embedded in the names of the legislation. Organizations like the National Right to Work Committee use scary language, including threats of union violence and allusions to corrupt union bosses, and misleading or false propaganda to pursue their anti-worker agenda
Movement conservatives at all levels echo these types of claims and use the army of talking points from the NRTWC and the Republican Party. The problem is that the talking points are just plain false. Here’s the reality about right-to-work (for less) laws:
Federal law already prohibits any American from being forced to join a union. Since this is almost the only argument that conservatives put forth in supporting right-to-work laws, and it’s 100 percent false, what is the real motivation for these laws? Right-to-work laws don’t grant any rights, they simply weaken unions Federal law also prohibits unions from using member or non-member fees from paying for activities that might violate the political or religious beliefs of the worker These laws allow workers who do not pay union dues to obtain the same benefits, including legal representation from unions, as union members without paying for them Workers (union and non-union) in right-to-work states make more than $5,000 a year less, on average, than in other states. States without right-to-work laws have healthier tax bases, which leads to better government programs and educational systems Because unions lead in the fight to ensure safety and health standards for all workers, laws that weaken unions also weaken these standards. The workplace death rate is 51 percent higher in right-to-work states Without strong unions to fight for benefits for workers, right-to-work states have 21 percent more people without health insurance The infant mortality rate in right-to-work states is 16 percent higher Without strong unions to fight for better wages for all workers, the poverty rate in right-to-work states is 2.3 percent higher Right-to-work states offer a maximum weekly worker compensation benefit $30 less than other states Right-to-work laws disproportionately harm women. Union women, on average, earn $149 more per week than non-union women The wage gap between men and women in the United States is 32 percent. it is only 5 percent between union men and women Right-to-work laws disproportionately harm people of color. Hispanic and Latino union members earn 45 percent more and African-Americans who are in unions see salaries 30 percent higher than African-Americans that are not in unions The more workers that are unionized, the higher the wages that employers will offer, even to non-union workers, since workers are less willing to accept substandard wages Higher wages mean more money is spent by working families, boosting the economy and leading to lower uneployment numbers Higher rates of unionism lead to increases in productivity in both union jobs and non-union jobs, as employers must bring in new technology, new techniques and better training in order to attract better workers Employers frequently offer higher wages to workers in order to prevent them from organizing a union, meaning that even the presence of unions and the possibility of their existence in a workplace increases wages Right-to-work laws undercut unionized businesses in the states where they exist because non-union businesses can offer cheaper goods and services by exploiting their workers Right-to-work laws interfere with empoyer-worker contracts by limiting what the two sides can engage in. These laws don’t encourage freedom, they restrain it for all involved, placing the ‘wisdom’ of conservative politicians over that of both empoyers and workers.