Michigan Governor Rick Snyder this week successfully led the crusade of making The Great Lake State the latest “right to work” state in the country. The Michigan House and Senate, both comprised of a Republican majority, passed this historic legislation and sent yet another bucket of cold water into the collective-bargaining faces of the likes of the Teamsters, UAW, and AFL-CIO. The fact that such an event could occur in the very birthplace of the union movement, where in 1937 Walter Reuther led the UAW’s confrontation with Ford Motor Company at the famous “Battle of The Overpass”, is nothing short of stunning! Or is it?
The percentage of US workers that belong to a union has been in decline for decades, from a high of 35% in the mid-1950’s to a low of 11.9% last year, and organized labor has no one but its leadership to blame for the evaporation of its rank-and-file. Rather than concede the fact that the incoming global economy tide would radically alter their dominance on the domestic manufacturing and services landscape, the likes of Jimmy Hoffa, Jr., Richard Trumka, Bob King, and their predecessors turned a blind eye. Times have changed, but organized labor has opted to hold firm to its core principles and lose membership rather than face reality.
The primary condition of “right to work” to which organized labor is so vehemently opposed is the right of employees to decide for themselves whether or not to join or financially support a union. From a union leadership perspective, one can certainly understand their obstinacy toward conceding this proviso, but from a worker’s perspective, it makes complete sense. Personally, I’ve had experience on both sides of the argument. As a former Teamster member in my younger years, I resented the fact I had to join the union and was mandated to pay dues as well as purchase their healthcare insurance (even though I already had it). I also had difficulty accepting the fact that fellow “brothers” who had seniority were by letter of the collective bargaining agreement offered first shot at promotion opportunities based primarily on their tenure and not on their qualifications and work ethic. The union did nothing to benefit me, but I did enjoy my job and my employer, so why the heck did I have to remain a union member as a condition of employment? Now that is an unfair labor practice and should be banned from the workplace; hence “right to work.”
The potential significant loss of union dues, the source of all union leadership salaries, overhead and political donations, ironically has and will continue to lead to lay-offs within the very heart of organized labor’s own cushy ivory tower. You can understand their reaction of panic and civil disobedience on this issue, but it’s time they looked in the mirror for the cause and effect of the fact that half of the states in the country are now “right to work”. They have met the enemy, and it is themselves!