LANSING, Mich. — This just in: Hell freezes over, pigs fly, Jimmy Hoffa rises from the dead, joins labor protests at state capital.
I’m just kidding. We all know pigs can’t fly.
The fact, however, that the Legislature of my home state of Michigan has just voted to become the nation’s 24th right-to-work state is nothing short of preposterous. In a good way, of course.
Framed as “freedom-to-work” legislation, Michigan’s version of right to work is similar to that in other states. It protects workers from forced unionization and will mean employees cannot be fired from their jobs simply because they don’t want to join a union or decline to pay union dues.
More importantly, the new law will prohibit public and private employers from automatically withholding dues from employee paychecks to fill the coffers of the unions. Instead, employees will get to make the proactive decision to belong to a union and pay dues and other fees directly.
As I write this column, the new law is being prepared for Gov. Rick Snyder’s signature, and before the week is over, Michigan’s “One Tough Nerd” (Google it) will have unassumingly loosened the labor movement’s clutches on the hard-working and desperate citizens of this great state.
That freedom to work will be good for the Mitten State is obvious (probably even to the 17.5 percent of unionized Michigan employees). According to the Mackinac Center, a conservative think tank, becoming a right-to-work state will attract younger workers. (Michigan notoriously hemorrhages young people.)
“Between 2000 and 2011, right-to-work states have seen an increase of 11.3 percent in the number of residents between the ages of 25-34, according to the Bureau of the Census. Non-right-to-work states, over that same period of time, have seen an increase of only 0.6 percent,” Mackinac.org says.
In addition, other states where right-to-work laws have been enacted have seen increased wages, lower unemployment and renewed vigor in the business community as employers find fewer hurdles in setting up shop or expanding their businesses.
Obviously, labor unions want those outcomes, right? After all, they seek to protect workers — that’s their whole reason for being.
Again with the jocularity. I just can’t help it.
No, in fact, some 13,000 protesters showed up in Lansing on Tuesday to express their displeasure with the pending legislation (and by “displeasure,” I mean “violent, vulgarity-strewn, threatening intimidation”).
Spurred on by the words of state Rep. Douglas A. Geiss, a Democrat who said on the House floor that the new law would “undo 100 years of labor relations. And there will be blood. We will relive the Battle of the Overpass” (referring to the famous 1937 standoff between the UAW and Ford Motor Co.), protesters on the capital lawn tore down a tent belonging to Americans for Prosperity.
Kind of a scary moment for the AFP volunteers who stood beneath it.
But violence and intimidation no longer work to bolster union support, even here, in this bastion of “unionism.”
To understand why their fear-mongering is failing, just follow the money. While unions still collect millions of dollars in Michigan, the Mackinac Center reveals some locals spend exactly zero on “representation” expenses, this according to filings required by the National Labor Relations Board.
Consider as well that Michigan teachers — whom the Michigan Education Association claims are woefully underpaid — pay as much as $635 per year in dues. That doesn’t include optional fees for political activism, plus dues to national and local affiliates.
When the state no longer requires unionization for employment and no longer permits withholding of dues (or “representation fees” for nonmembers), watch how quickly employees realize the “Freedom to Work” means freedom to keep their hard-earned money.
If unions are so crucial, they must prove themselves to the folks who have been forced to support them for so long. Meanwhile, the rest of us are going to shake off the shackles and see what happens to our downtrodden state economy.
My money is on our One Tough Nerd.