Map showing States with Right to Work Laws (Michigan Not Yet Added) - form the Bureau of Labor Statistics, via the Sacramento Bee
The State of Michigan is the scene of some protest from Organized Labor due to the recent passage of a Right to Work Act that will be signed into Law by the Govenor as soon as it hits his desk. The roll call and the text of the bill are available at MichiganVotes.org. What is surprising is that there are so few Democrats in the Michigan Senate, as well as the Michigan House, given the impression that the State of Michigan is a sold Democrat state. The Senate and the House went a step further, by extending the rights to work to Teachers and Government Employees in a bill that also passed without much resistance.
There are now 24 of the 50 States that have right to work laws, according to the Sacramento Bee. Those states are: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Michigan, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, - South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Wyoming.
Other states that have introduced bills or considered: Rhode Island, specifically Teachers, Missouri, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire(americanrightsatwork.org), however, those bills were either no introduced or rejected by the legislators – so far.
The premise of a Right to Work law is to allow employees the option of joining a union – or not. One of free to join a union if they so choose, however, it takes away the ability of unions to force new hires to join a union. One would think this would benefit both the union and the employee considering the union, if the union had a good sales pitch as to why the individual should join. Therefore, when unions protest the passage of such a bill, one has to wonder why the protest? If they had such a great product to sell (the fabulous pensions or what-have-you), then the fact that a state passes such a law, should be of no consequence. Obviously, since unions fear these right to work laws, there must be something wrong with their product. Perhaps it’s the fact that the individual, regardless of performance enjoys no chance of moving up or down the ladder. That forward movement from the mail room to the corner office is off the table, so to speak, if one is a union member (unless of course, one is protected by nepotism.) Perhaps one is a fan of one political party over the other, and as the majority of dues are used to support political campaigns of one party over another, that may be a huge deterrent. Perhaps if unions made better use of the dues they are automatically given from membership (in states where there are no right to work laws or states where there were right to work laws) they would be seeing a huge increase in membership rather than the steady and steep decline they have seen over the past few years. In fact, as of 2010, the percent of those U.S. workers enrolled in unions had dropped to 11.9% of the population, compared to the 1950’s when a third of all U.S. workers were enrolled in a union. (CBS News) There are two type of unions, private sector and public workers – one can understand that the public sector workers, dependent upon the government are faring somewhat better than those in the private sector, as the economy plays a factor, while the government workers live off the taxpayer, as long as the taxpayer exists or the government prints money. That said why the steep decline in private unions?
Understanding that the right to work laws give individuals a choice to join a union or not - should not be a factor, as again, if the product was worth it, those non-union workers would be signing up in droves. What happened? The demands of unions on private firms have driven many companies overseas, or out of business. One might point to the recent loss of Hostess Twinkies – where the company tried to reason with the union, yet the demands continued – the cost was a loss of 18,000 jobs. Hostess is no more, and the U.S. Twinkie consumer will now be eating Twinkies made in Mexico. This has also been the case with the auto-workers, as American car companies are making automobiles anywhere but the U.S. and those foreign car manufactures making cars in the U.S. are going to right to work states.
The reason that there is no need for a union at all: Unions, at one time, especially during the 1950’s were a necessity due to a lack of regulations concerning everything from hours to safety. There were no child labor laws, or laws protecting factory workers from 12 hours days, with zero breaks. In factories, accidents were rampant due to a lack of concern over workers safety. Unions were there to protect the individuals, and they offered more: financial protection in the form of increase in pay, benefits such as health care and pensions to protect one in their old age. Since that time however, laws were passed by the Federal government. There are now minimum wage laws in every state, companies offer 401K (pension plans); there’s OSHA, a government entity that ensures the safety of employees through inspections of work places. There are laws regarding the length of time one can work through at day and a set standard of breaks. There are laws against discrimination, laws that protect employees from sexual harassment, laws that require companies to grant certain types of leave (medical and so on) and guarantee the individuals job. There is now Obama Care, a law that guarantees health care! The laws have evolved to the point where the question becomes: What does the union do? It is still relevant? The answer is no, unless one views joining a union similar to joining a fraternity or other “club”. They have been legislated out of relevancy by the federal government (which begs the question as to why there are Government employee unions in the first place.)
The battle therefore, is for power – power over politician’s, and power over their memberships – the premise, if one has power over a politician (by delivering votes for example through power over the membership), then the union bosses (many of whom are degreed professionals, non union members who have rather hefty salaries), get legislation passed on a local or state level that benefits the union – such as exorbitant pensions. If one lives in a bankrupt city, then one can understand that said bankruptcy involved – pensions of public employees. As these cities go into bankruptcy, they will no longer be able to pay the pensions, or the salaries of said public employees. Some desperate cities are asking for a bail out from the Federal Government (which is somewhat cash strapped) – The big question is: what happens when the taxes can no longer support the unions? Would an employee, public or private, be better off managing their own funds, and wage negations and holding onto their job, rather than find themselves out of a job and a pension. The truth is not of the matter is the private and public sectors no longer can afford, nor is there a need for unions. Should the laws change and say, work place protection no longer exist, or 401K’s would be banned, or Obama Care would cease to exist, or the Family Medical Leave Act, or a host of other Act that protect the worker, all be repealed, then there would be a need for workers to band together and demand a better environment which would then help the company and the employees. Until that time, the relevancy of the once powerful unions will continue to prevail until they simply cease to be a factor.
Disclosure: Blogger is a former member of the ILGWU, daughter to a member of the defunct but powerful AMCU and AFLCIO member who has witnessed, first hand, the corruption, ineptitude and lack of relevancy of said unions over a period of 40 years.