Right to Work? Wrong for You. ALL OF YOU.

'Right to Work' is wrong for every one of you. Here's why:

17.5% of the Michigan workforce belongs to a union.  That means you probably don't belong to one. If that's the case, I bet you're wondering what all the hubbub is about in Lansing over all this "right to work" (RTW) stuff.

If you've not paid attention to any of this, or have chosen not to, I don't blame you.  The politics behind it all is really disgusting.

I watched it from the state Senate Gallery on Wednesday night and all day on Thursday.  I watched the political calculations being made by conservative Republicans, who saw Proposal 2's defeat as an excuse to try to stick it to all working people in the state.  I heard Dick DeVos has been working hard on the Republican leadership behind the scenes.  I also heard about the way his wife, Betsy, has walked into Republican meetings and threatened to run extremist types against any sensible GOP legislators who didn't like the radical direction the party is currently on.  The Koch Brothers' "Americans for Prosperity" bussed in a rent-a-mob on Wednesday to push for RTW.  As I write this from the state Capitol, with at least 1000 hard-working blue collar people screaming things like, "What Does Democracy Look Like?  THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE!"  I witnessed an attempt to pack pro-RTW people into the gallery, and squeeze the rest of us out.

Why was there such a determined effort to pass something so controversial, so unpopular, and so harmful to the state?

For one thing, Republicans don't have much time to do it before most of their majority in the state House evaporates.  The ones who have been shown the door by the voters last month have no trouble voting for something this harmful.  They have nothing to lose.  You do.

Another reason is money.  Every dollar that employers take from the 99% of us is a dollar diverted from the economy and into the pockets of the 1%.  They don't spend like the rest of us, and it doesn't lead to as much growth as when we all spend money, because 99% of us spread it out a lot farther than the 1% can.

If RTW gets signed by the Governor, you'll end up with less to put into the economy, union and nonunion members alike.  Small businesses will suffer.  They won't be able to expand, or hire as many workers.  Good paying jobs will be harder to find.  Michigan will go the way of Indiana, as well as the other RTW states, where all of this has already happened.

Those mouthpieces of the Koch brothers and DeVoses have proclaimed that the opposite will happen--that we'll have a flood of jobs and economic prosperity  into the state if we pass what they call "Freedom to Work."  The result will be "Freedom to Freeload," as non-unionized workers reap the same benefits that dues-paying union members get for them.  Then, when contract negotiations happen in places that embrace RTW, we'll start to see "Freedom to Work For Less Than Ever Before," where employers try to play union groups off the nonunion ones.  If they succeed, everyone's wages get pushed downward.

They've also said that they support collective bargaining, since they heard that 70% of you do too.  What a joke!  They've passed a slew of bills that hurt public-sector employees, stack the deck in favor of management, and otherwise
make it incredibly difficult for public-sector unions to secure a fair deal.  Now, they want to spread the damage to the private sector.

If I had my way, we'd all be in unions, the rules would be equally fair for labor and management, and we'd all be better off.  Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville said that on Thursday, minus the 'fair' part.  Too bad his party's RTW delusion, paid for by billionaires, seeks to undermine it all.  He even refused to have the bill named after him, when Democrats offered an amendment to do so.  Go figure...

RTW is great for the 1%, but it's horrible policy for you.  Yes, I mean YOU.  I'd ask you to contact your legislator and oppose all this, but the Republican majority in the Legislature ran it through in one day, with no real time to discuss the mess they just made.  No committee hearings, no usual careful consideration, no nothing.  Democrats in the Senate thundered against all this for hours.  They said a lot of what I wrote here, and so much more...to no avail.

Governor Snyder plans to sign this travesty on or after Tuesday, having made the excuse that this wouldn't have happened if Proposal 2 hadn't been attempted.  I'll remember that in 2014, when everyone who supported RTW are up for re-election.  I hope you do too.



Mark Hoffman

District Director

Trenton Education Association, MEA/NEA

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Steven Rzeppa December 08, 2012 at 04:56 AM
If it weren't for exams, I'd be right there in Lansing too.
Trenton Wolverine December 08, 2012 at 07:26 AM
I agree that just because one decides not to join a union, it shouldn't make them privileged to get the same benefits. But it raised a question for me, why should the government force people to do things? It affects their personal choices, which is a liberty that we were founded on and made the country to what it was, a great nation.
Mark Hoffman December 08, 2012 at 01:06 PM
Hi Trenton Wolverine! The Taft-Hartley Act, way back in 1947, already made it illegal for anyone, nationwide, to have to join a union. That alone exposes 'freedom to work' for the spin job that it is. I like your connection between freedom and how the lack thereof affects personal choices. At its worst, right-to-work leaves people with very little freedom in the end, when they end up working several jobs, are still underemployed, and collect food stamps--which, incidentally, the starting salary of a Van Buren schoolteacher qualifies to collect. Truly disgraceful.
PAY UP December 08, 2012 at 04:37 PM
There is too much misinformation about this subject. Can someone please explain this situation. How would current unions be handled if this law passes. Let's say a 2000 member union with 400 that now want to not pay dues. Are they still part of the bargaining unit that negotiates for contractual items or are they excluded and now the union is 1600. Half the political community is saying they will no longer be in a union. Is that true or are they in the union and not paying dues. It's funny that they don't even bring up Beck rights where the union members can currently deny the union from deducting the portion of dues that is used for political means.
Steven Rzeppa December 08, 2012 at 04:50 PM
Those people would not technically be in the union if they are not paying dues, but they would undoubtedly enjoy the benefits of the contract negotiations that the union makes in regards to wages, safety, benefits, etc. It will diminish the power of unions heavily in this aspect though as membership and funding will decline and they will lose any leverage with management.
Joe Manstrioni December 09, 2012 at 07:46 AM
The author begins by stating that it only affects 17.5% of the workforce, which means it won't have much of an effect at all. Unions spend the vast majority of their dues on union officer salaries and political donations. A very small percentage is actually used in negotiating employment contracts. Right to work is a very positive thing considering individual liberty, and it will require the unions to be more responsive to the people they represent.
Mark Hoffman December 09, 2012 at 08:47 PM
Hi Joe! What do you suppose will happen if that 17.5% drops down from the middle class as a result of 'right-to-work'? It'll do a lot more damage to the state economy, and therefore to all of us, thanks to a big negative ripple effect. I can't speak to what other unions pay their officers, but every MEA local I can think of--including mine--pays stipends rather than full time salaries. Those officers also play big roles in the administration of their districts--especially the bigger public schools. Salaried private-sector union officers do that as well. As for dues going to political action, that's an important and necessary thing, especially given how the opponents of Proposal 2 spent 8 times more than supporters. With that in mind, and considering what the Legislature did last Thursday, do you REALLY think unions hold a disproportionate amount of political power? The other side is the real problem, because it's a lot harder to see where their money comes from. Lastly, about individual liberty...is an employer's 'liberty' more important than yours or mine, or the employees who work for them individually? An employer (or a billionaire in Lansing) can throw a lot more political weight around there at the moment than you alone, or myself. What's going to counterbalance the powerful's hammerlock on weak, divided employees, if they can't effectively organize to counter this?
JACK December 12, 2012 at 08:19 PM
Ron December 13, 2012 at 04:10 PM
The passage of this bill had more to do with revenge and destroying unions in this state than anything else. Gov. Snyder promised Mitt Romney the state of Michigan and that didn't happen. Then after the election and the defeat of proposal 2 and the other 5 proposals many republicans in Lansing claimed it was time to more forward with RTW legislation saying that it was the will of the people. The fact is that "the people" didn't want any of the proposals attached to the state constitution or simply didn't understand the proposal. Many of these same republicans including the governor have also said that they intend on rewriting the emergency manger law in January, which was also defeated by the people. So much for that argument. The fact is that this group of renegade politicians are out to destroy unions in this state and will not stop until they have achieved their goal. Right to work laws have not produced the results in any of the other 23 states that Snyder and his elected group of cronies claim will occur here in the state of Michigan with the adoption of this wrongful piece of legislation. Additionally, the way this bill was rammed through by lame duck, vengeful politicians without committee or public hearings is completely wrong and shows their lack of concern for due process and any input from "the people" of this state.
TJ December 13, 2012 at 08:27 PM
Two questions about this comment: 1. If The Taft-Hartley Act is what you say, why do all teachers (and hourly auto workers) not have the choice to join the union? 2. Why is the starting salary of a Van Buren schoolteacher so low that it is disgraceful? Isn't that person represented by the MEA?
Ron December 14, 2012 at 01:50 AM
Well, I see where the political extremist I'm Lansing have done it again and they didn't even wait until January. Late today the Michigan legislature rammed through another bill. This time its yet another emergency manager law. As I previously said they wanted us to think that the passage of RTW legislation was based upon the defeat of Proposal 2 by Michigan voters. Well, as I recall those same voters also rejected Proposal 1, the new emergency manager law. Yet this same group of elected officials including Governor Snyder have struck again despite the will of the people. Apparently, they have an agenda and will not stop until they have successfully passed every new law they intend to adopt. This is so wrong.
Mark Hoffman December 14, 2012 at 08:02 PM
Hi TJ! The answers to your questions: 1) Taft-Hartley allowed for workplaces to be 'open shop' or 'closed shop' as they chose to negotiate it, so school districts and auto companies negotiated contracts to be 'closed shop' or 'agency shop', where employees had to join the union. That'll be a moot point by March, when RTW goes into effect. 2) A very good question. Van Buren schools, thanks to an over $400 per pupil cut by the state, had to negotiate a concessionary contract. In other words, their sacrifices keep the district from going under, and put a starting teacher's salary low enough to qualify for food stamps, thanks to paying an illegal 3% health-care-for-retirees penalty out of each check, 20% of their health care premiums, 14 (going from memory) 'furlough days' where they work for free, and overall salary cuts to boot. That $400 per pupil cut was totally unnecessary. The state had (and still has) plenty of money to fully fund our public schools, but Governor Snyder and his party chooses not to, opting instead to starve them, wreck public education as a whole, and blow the cash on tax cuts and privatizing education...but that's another story.
Dale Murrish December 17, 2012 at 06:53 PM
39% of public sector employees belong to a union. What about the 26,000 Michigan students who sat home while their teachers called in sick? Seems like they were more interested in their union representation than serving the needs of their customers: the students and their parents. Public sector union membership has increased, as teachers and other government workers fight to keep their right to organize. States like Wisconsin have survived bitter fights against conservative governors who try to limit their power. As their policies have taken effect, the voters kept Governor Walker by a larger margin than he won by in the first place. Let’s hope Michigan learns from Wisconsin’s recent troubles and its own past decades of suffering and has a more civil transition to a new era of growth. It looks like Michigan may only have a week of loud protests instead of the months suffered by Wisconsin. http://troy.patch.com/blog_posts/public-sector-unions-the-next-budget-challenge
Dale Murrish December 17, 2012 at 06:56 PM
Actually, the MEA is fighting to keep their right to maintain their monopoly over education, fighting charter schools, vouchers, private schools, home schooling and every other parental choice initiative that threatens their government school monopoly.
Harry Pelham December 18, 2012 at 04:05 AM
Boo Hoo can't believe all yo Union Folks up their in Michigan got all yo panties all up in a bunch about this here so-called Boogey Man called Right to Work? In the end most of yo folks both Union and Non-Union will hardly notice any change what so ever! The Big Union Bosses are all stirred up because Right to Work will finally force them to prove their worth to their respective Rank & File Members! Think for yourself for once, if my Union is providing me with a FAIR Union Contract that provides me with Above Market wages & benefits and is representing me properly with my employer! Am I NOT going too choose to pay my monthly Union Dues if I am satisified with the wages benefits and representation my Union is providing? I DON'T THINK SO! Oh sure there are going to be a few Free-loaders but so few that they wouldn't amount to a hill of beans. Plus I have read in other Right to Work State's in Union Place's of Employment the Union publish a list of this Free-loaders every month who have refused to pay their Union Dues or Join the Union! A lot of FUN that would be where the vast majority of my fellow workers don't talk to or choose to associate with me????
Harry Pelham December 18, 2012 at 04:09 AM
Personally I would find it quite offensive too have a University Degree consider myself to be a Professional Educator yet need some Union Goon's to dictate my entire career from the day I left University up until the very day I retired!!!
Mark Hoffman December 18, 2012 at 12:06 PM
Hi Dale! 'A new era of growth?' I've got a hard time buying into the notion that a slew of low paying employers entering the state is going to usher in an economic recovery--and that's only assuming RTW works as advertised. Usually, it doesn't, as there's no real connection between RTW and job growth. There is, however, a connection between RTW states and low-paying jobs. When you consider that the state is also trying hard to dismantle the single most important engine for long-term economic growth and high paying jobs--a strong public education system--I think it's fair to say that current policies will take us down, not up.


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