Gov. Rick Snyder of Michigan is expected to sign so-called “right-to-work” bills into law this coming Tuesday, December 11. The bills will impact both public and private sector unions.
This attack on workers comes a month after the November elections, in which Michigan voters turned down a proposal to place collective bargaining rights in their state constitution. A coalition called Protect Working Families, mainly spearheaded by labor organizations, including the Michigan Conference AAUP, had tried to preempt right-to-work with this ballot proposal. However, Protect Working Families was vastly outspent by opposition that successfully campaigned on outrageous lies and scare tactics.
The crux of any right-to-work law is the prohibition of “fair share fees,” also known as “agency fees,” which unions collect from non-members for services. Despite not being able to collect fair share fees, unions that operate in right-to-work states still have to represent and provide services to non-members, and even can be sued by non-members if they believe they are not adequately being represented.
While proponents of right-to-work tout ideological principles such as “freedom in the workplace,” right-to-work is a thinly-veiled union-busting tool. Without fair share, it is extremely difficult for unions to represent their members and participate in the political process.
Right-to-work also has far-reaching implications beyond union members. All workers in right-to-work states make, on average, $5,333 less than workers in free bargaining states. In addition, right-to-work states have higher poverty rates, more workplace fatalities, and have fewer people with health benefits.
When the unions that helped build worker protections and the middle class disappear, those protections and the middle class start to disappear with them.
In Ohio, a Tea Party coalition has been collecting signatures to put a right-to-work issue on the state ballot. At this time, it is unknown whether they will follow through with the proposal, and if they do, when it will be on the ballot. Nevertheless, the We Are Ohio coalition that repealed SB 5 has remained together to monitor and fight against a right-to-work attack. We will continue to keep our members updated as we hear more about right-to-work in Ohio.
We stand with our colleagues in Michigan as they protest these bills. Thousands are expected to rally in Lansing on Tuesday.