The “Right to Work” for Lower Wages and Less Representation in Michigan

Image: Wikimedia Commons (CC)

The moneyed elites *ahem* engines of the economy are finally seeing success in Michigan, as a union-busting law effecting millions of workers is passed, kneecapping the fund-raising for union organizations by dividing workers against each other (Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks has a very thorough and accurate rundown). This is a boon to the “burden shifting” robber baron industrialists, as union membership in Michigan was finally starting to rise again, after a steady decline since 2007.

Contrary to all the paid advertising, several myths persist about how unions work. Nobody is ‘forced’ to pay union membership in Michigan. The law states they are only required to do so when the union provides a service such as contract negotiation and representation, but the new law would allow anyone to receive those services without contributing into the workers’ collective funds. Once again, the “Right to Work” has been misleadingly named and propagandized, and has also convinced some conservative workers that their hard-won unions are taking their dues and using them for some leftist political agenda. In fact, collected dues do not go towards political contributions, but on operational and legal expenses, while political money is fundraised voluntarily and separately. As stated, union membership is not a requirement to work, the only ‘choice’ or ‘right’ involved here is whether or not to accept benefits without paying for them, a practice that (as per the designs of the Paymasters) will drain resources and weaken or destroy any worker power.

Even more revealing is the brazen anti-worker language employed by objective Fox journalists, Liberals Unite reports (via I Acknowledge Class Warfare Exists):

On Monday, Fox News host Gregg Jarrett said that a woman who thought Michigan’s new “right-to-work” law was unfair could “go get a job elsewhere” if she did not like it.

Fox News host Martha MacCallum mentioned an earlier Fox News broadcast had featured a woman angry that the proposed anti-union law would allow workers to unfairly receive benefits who did not pay union dues.

“One woman, in a soundbite we had earlier, said ‘I don’t want to work with somebody who doesn’t have to pay what I have to pay.’ That is part of the outrage there,” MacCallum told co-host Jarrett.

“Then she doesn’t have to work. I mean, if she doesn’t like that, she can go get a job elsewhere, I suppose,” Jarrett responded. “But the point here is, it seems anathema to democracy to force somebody to join a union, to force somebody as a condition of having a job to join a union.”

http://youtu.be/MNk_c3Kx8sw

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  • Raymond Jeding

    The union can only negotiate if they actually have the leverage of support from a majority of the workers. If they have a sufficient number of supporters then those people will be voluntarily paying union dues so no problem. It seems like the only way this is bad for unions is if there is only a committed minority of workers who want to negotiate but don’t actually have enough support to effectively do so. Even if what this article is saying is true (that there are no closed shops) it doesn’t seem that unreasonable for unions to have to actually convince enough people to support them.

    • VaudeVillain

      What do you think happens when shops start preferentially hiring workers who do not belong to the union and indicate they have no intention of doing so?

      What happens when workers respond to the prisoners’ paradox this creates by acting in predictably antisocial ways?

      Why can’t workers who don’t want to be union just go find a different job themselves?

      • Raymond Jeding

        Shops can try to do this but if the reforms advocated by the union has enough support they will be able to use strikes and public opinion as leverage to get them to stop this practice. Try a quick google search of ‘history of unions’ to see how this works.
        Workers can choose either to act antisocially or to act as a union, do you really think that the only reason workers would choose to be part of a union is that they are forced to? I think unions have a lot more to offer than that.
        Why doesn’t everybody else who wants the parking spot I want just go find a different parking spot? The union doesn’t ‘own’ a particular workplace, so even if they would like to be able to force everyone who doesn’t want to join up with them out, there is not a very strong claim for them to do so.

        • David Howe

          you make it sound like the union has the power and that the union is in charge. this is false. the union is needed to balance the needs of the workers with the needs of the bosses. the bosses by definition have a nearly free hand without it.

          • Raymond Jeding

            This is exactly right, in theory the union only has power by the appeal of its message (better working conditions, pay, etc.) so either the workers support the union in mass and it is powerful or they don’t. If you create a situation where the union gets power (through money) even from workers who don’t support what the union is trying to do you misalign the aims of the union with the aims of the workers. Thats how you get things like unions protecting bad workers with high seniority and negotiating for grandfathered in benefits because the union is representing the interests of core union members and supporters of the union and not always the workers as a whole.

  • bsjeffrey

    people should be able to work at ‘union shops’ and be able to negotiate their own contracts, and therefore not have to pay dues. why can’t the union negotiate that people who want to work at said shop but don’t want to pay the dues don’t get the union contract? that allows for collective bargaining and individual bargaining.

    • David Howe

      misses the whole point of collective bargaining

  • BuzzCoastin

    it’s the 21st Century

    it’s now time for the right to not work law

  • Guest

    Right to work is simply a ban on firing an employee for not honoring a contract with a 3rd party. If you did not pay your home electric bill should you get fired ? Not to mention if money is political speech then I don’t want to give it to any institution that supports the 2 party system.

    • David Howe

      resulting in no opposition to the desires of the bosses. they call all the shots. you have no voice in your own destiny. and if it’s political speech, that’s your chance to participate in it. third parties have no power and achieve nothing.

  • mike mac

    As a teacher in Michigan, and a proud union member for the
    last 10 years, I would like to say a few things about this law. First, while it
    was dressed up as a fairness in work issue, there is no doubt in anyone’s mind
    who has looked at the issue that the goal was the destruction of Union power in
    Michigan. Gov Snyder and the Republican Majority in Michigan have repeatedly
    struck out at unions over the last two years, particularly the teachers union,
    because union money supports Democratic candidates more often than it does
    Republican. This is a long tradition in Michigan, and has actually been going
    on as long as I can remember, but it has become increasingly hostile in recent
    years because of events like those in Wisconsin and because of money coming in
    from the Koch brothers and other Tea-party backed groups.

    This bill is merely the latest in a long string of attacks, and unfortunately it
    was able to slam through Lansing before anyone could stop it. This bill was
    drafted by ALEC, pushed through without debate or a committee hearing, voted on
    by Republicans who had lost their seats in the legislature, and was signed into
    law the same day by Snyder. In addition to this, the bill was specifically
    loaded with money and language to prevent it from ever being voted on or
    repealed, because they know that the public would not support this bill.

    Some have said that people have the right to not join a
    union. That was the law in Michigan long before this bill. People also need to
    keep in mind that only about 12% of the private workforce in Michigan is
    actually made up of union employees. Companies that want to set up without
    worrying about unions can already do so in Michigan, so this does nothing to
    attract new business.

    In addition, many people have commented that instead of having
    the unions negotiate for them, they would like to negotiate their own contracts.
    However these people do not understand how union jobs in Michigan work. These
    jobs are not high paying, corporate jobs, where people would be able to
    negotiate high salaries and long term employment. Starting pay at non-union
    charter schools is around 35,000 a year, and union schools start around 40,000.
    What hope does someone who wants to work at a public school have of negotiating
    a high enough salary to survive on as long as those numbers and jobs exist?
    Without the power of the union to negotiate for you, you have no chance of even
    getting 50,000 a year starting, and that is with a Masters in your field. Most
    people in union jobs have to work 2 jobs to make ends meet, and only because of
    the power of the union do works get guaranteed raises and benefits, which most
    non-union workers do not get. Some people might be able to negotiate for more,
    but the vast majority of the workforce is either too inexperienced in such
    matters to know what to ask for, or too ignorant of what else is out there to
    know what they could ask for.

    So again, this bill is an attack on workers, an attack on
    educators, and an attack on the people of Michigan. Our only hope is that this
    spurs the people of Michigan into action, and in 2 years they focus their
    efforts on voting out those who worked so hard against them.