Michigan lawmakers OK 'right-to-work' measure

The state's governor is expected to sign union dues legislation after President Obama derides it as 'right to work for less money.'

By Jason Notte Dec 11, 2012 5:53PM

Construction workers -- Seth Joel, PhotographerThe president doesn't like it, the incoming Democrats in the Michigan House of Representatives don't like it and unions don't like it but, as of Tuesday, Michigan is a ceremonial step away from being a "right-to-work" state.


After Michigan Republicans lost five seats in the state's House of Representatives in the November elections, new laws making the payment of union dues voluntary became a priority. Republican Gov. Rick Snyder once considered the legislation too divisive, but fast-tracked it to the House on Thursday, where it passed 58-52. A Senate measure covering private-sector workers passed 22-16 on Friday, with a second bill applying to government employees passing 22-4 after Senate Democrats walked out. Republicans hold majorities in both chambers.


The House and Senate signed off on each other's bills Tuesday and Snyder was expected to sign it into law as early as Wednesday after tweeting this week that "Michigan needs to maintain its competitive edge, and Freedom to Work can help make that happen."


A day earlier, President Barack Obama told employees at Daimler's Detroit Diesel in Redford, Mich., that Michigan lawmakers shouldn't be trying "to take away your right to bargain for better wages."

"These so-called right-to-work laws, they don't have anything to do with economics, they have to do with politics," the president said before further attacking the law as the "right to work for less money."


Neither side's view of the debate has been 100% unfiltered. Supporters say the law will prevent workers from being forced into unions they don't want to join, but federal law already prevents employees from being forced into unions or other groups they're ideologically opposed to. Opponents including the president say it crushes collective bargaining, but it only gives workers the right to refuse to pay for that bargaining. At its crux, the agreement is about letting employees work under a contract unions bargained for without paying the cost of that bargaining.


That said, Tuesday's decision and Wednesday's potential signing likely don't settle matters between Michigan politicians and labor unions. Unions besieged the state capitol building in Lansing for the last week and are pushing to recall lawmakers who voted for the bill and Gov. Snyder -- similar to the push that took place after Wisconsin passed controversial anti-union measures last year. Snyder isn't up for re-election until 2013.


Union membership among the U.S. workforce has dwindled from 30% nearly 50 years ago to about 12%. Meanwhile, nearly half the states in the U.S. have adopted "right-to-work" laws. Elise Gould and Heidi Shierholz, researchers at the Economic Policy Institute, studied what they called "the compensation penalty of 'right-to-work' laws" and found that wages decreased an average of 3% in right-to-work states, health insurance benefits fell by a similar margin and retirement plan contributions decreased 5%.


Unions, meanwhile, point to Department of Labor and Census Bureau data showing that workers in right-to-work states make an average of $5,500 less than their union-state counterparts while working in states with 53% more workplace deaths.


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73Comments
Dec 11, 2012 6:37PM
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The  Obama admin is opposed to any legislation containing the words, RIGHT, FREEDOM, or CHOICE.
Dec 11, 2012 8:13PM
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Michigan struck a great blow to the monopolistic thuggery of union control today. Anyone watching the news today, or who followed the Wisconsin vote on the same issue, is LYING if they dont acknowledge the criminal actions that characterizes the modern union membership, public or private.

Unions can no longer offer any benefits to most workers so they stoop to intimidation and violence  

Dec 11, 2012 8:46PM
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I have been working for 41 years, never belonged to a union, and have received a pay raise every year.  Barack Obama should keep his mouth shut because he never really worked a day in his life.
Dec 11, 2012 8:34PM
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Refreshing to see a rare victory for freedom and liberty.
Dec 11, 2012 8:43PM
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Unions haven't been outlawed.  Collective bargaining hasn't been outlawed.  Workers are still free to organize and unionize and bargain for whatever they want.  And if the unions really do provide a valuable and essential function as they claim, they shouldn't have any trouble keeping their current members and attracting new ones.
Dec 12, 2012 10:22AM
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These thugs are saying that "freedom of choice" is unAmerican. These are definitely not  the brightest bulbs. Most of these union slugs don't have the ability to be a Walmart greeter. Unskilled, uneducated, and now whining. Can't obummer bail you out of this one with taxpayer $?
Dec 11, 2012 8:59PM
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V_L - value freedom?

No one should be compelled to extortion -- uh I mean pay union dues.  We just saw and heard who the thugs were.  Union members beating people, tearing down opposition tents, threatening blood in the streets.  They are no different than the mafia organizations that ran them years ago before the feds took them down under the RICO act.

Where is pro-choice now?  We all have the right to CHOOSE whether to join a union.   Besides, no union labor monopoly means MORE JOBS REDISTRIBUTED to more people.

Time for Obama to get out of the way and stop living in the past and get his incompetent persona back to the Whitehouse.

Dec 12, 2012 1:43PM
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Yes union members make more but big union states have higher unemployment rates because companies don't want to move there!!!
Dec 12, 2012 2:31PM
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I like right to work laws. It makes the unions prove their worth rather than just get their money.
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The President should keep his nose out of it.
Dec 12, 2012 11:32AM
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If the unions were not using the dues to support politicians and pay themselves fat salaries, they would not be under attack right now. You brought this on yourselves by being the greedy bastards you say you are fighting against.
Dec 12, 2012 2:07PM
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Akin to a true Roman I say,  "BRING ON THE FISCAL CLIFF, IT WILL MOSTLY HURT THOSE WHO CAN'T FEEL ANYTHING TO BEGIN WITH !!!"   caps solely for emphasis, sorry.  :)
Dec 14, 2012 7:40PM
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Wow! More shoddy journalism, Jason. 

This law does not take away anyone's right to organize. Instead, it protects your right to choose whether you pay into a union. Employees can still pay if they choose, and they can still organize - even if they choose not to pay into a union.

Stop pushing your ideology in these articles. You're not subtle enough in your writing to get away with it. ;-)
Dec 21, 2012 4:32AM
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Unions are a form of  mafia the same as the mafia the government fought in NY in past years.

They have put many companies out of business in the past and lost many jobs in America. 

They are why China has so many jobs that were once American workers jobs.

Dec 12, 2012 1:47PM
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Unions Good, unions Bad...Blah,blah,blah..

You can work for a Union shop...Or not work for a Union shop...

That choice for Americans has "always been available."...Everywhere...Period.

 

What the Majority of people are missing is the purpose of "Cruel Nasty Capitalism" at it's worst.

Buying off our Politicians and Lobbying to have their way...Usually REPUBLICAN and/or CONSERVATIVES with heavy ties to Big Corporations and the Wealthy...

Eventually "WAGES go down"...THEY ALWAYS DENY THIS...

And the WELFARE/Benefits of the workers gets WORST....They always DENY this also...

It's not a River in Egypt folks.....IT'S the NEW WAY of WORKLIFE in AMERICA.

Dec 11, 2012 9:19PM
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No problem as long as the workers who choose to work at a union company, and then if they choose not to join the union, they can choose to work for a lower wage and fewer benefits, right?  Why should they receive the same pay and benefits that the union workers have fought for?  If you are anti-union, then do not work for a union company.  
Dec 11, 2012 10:29PM
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Unfortunately, UNIONS ARE CORPORATIONS TOO

Stakeholders, acting under corporate legal protection via adjudicated precedent, will psychopathically tend to externalize costs (environmental, human, etc) as the "organization's" operators work under the psychology they are contributing to an inhuman personage for the good of all while getting paid.

Get rid of this "corporation = people" (Mitt?) and the crap gets taken care of.

However, the effort to constitutionally revoke this protection explicitly will be knocked down by ALL political interests as this legal cover is used by them to perpetuate power in all areas.  Many will reject it purely on economic policy grounds of adversity to capital formation.  THOSE INDIVIDUALS ARE TRULY ON MORAL SHAKY GROUND.
Dec 11, 2012 8:31PM
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Did you volunteer to take that most recent pay cut? Aren't you working harder for less? Where do you see that going? Do you see your boss giving you a raise next year, or taking yet another vacation? It doesn't end until YOU do something about it. Governor Snyder and his Congressional THUGS dealt a major blow to ALL workers across America. He told all of YOU that YOU will work for nothing. Yes you will, because YOU are gutless. I'm not gutless. I told my employer what laid ahead and it did. I lost my job over it and built a successful enterprise since then. Can you? IF YOU CAN'T YOU WILL WORK FOR LESS AND LESS AND LESS AND LESS. Maybe one day, one from the Elite Class YOU made, will throw you a chewed on bone AND YOU WILL BE THANKFUL. Think about what you treasure and how you measure the worth of that treasure. Then contemplate FREEDOM. Use the same measuring stick to value it. I have mine. I will DIE before I surrender it. My freedom is priceless. Yours, not so much. You... seem to get pacified by less and less and less and less.

Dec 11, 2012 9:19PM
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"No one should be compelled to extortion"

 

WOW... you've been out of the work force that long? Half the middle management in America lost it's careers in 2007-08. The At-Will Employment Act allows employers to have (force) you sign a new contract annually. In it... they can change terms freely. Most people don't have millions or entitlements in supplement. That means the dynamics can wane annually. Unions were created for a reasons that offset what non-Founder Inheritors concoct. I find it disgusting that retirees sit on bleachers and cheer for the servitude of current and future America. Damn all of you.   

Dec 11, 2012 10:19PM
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What the union-hating employees fail to see here is that a tiered hourly salary is right around the corner.  Shortly after the celebration of this union defeat, as soon as the management cheerleaders grow tired of thrusting their pom-poms skyward, their ever-loving management is going to take their hourly salary downward.  For example, union employees will make $15 an hour whilst non-union members will see their pay slashed to $10 an hour, for the exact same work position.  The former cheerleaders will have absolutely no recourse in behalf of their decimated hourly wage and management/business owners will laugh heartedly... all the way to da bank!  You won!  SNAAAP!

 

In the 1920-30's the only currency wanton greed understood, outside of physical money, was fractured skulls.  Unfortunately, history is likely to repeat itself.  Pinkerton is ready... are you? :P

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