Democrats claim that they’re the party of workers’ rights. But in Michigan, Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer just stripped away workers’ basic right to work—with the full support of President Biden.
On Friday, the governor signed legislation repealing Michigan’s “right to work” law. The existing statute had ensured that workers could not be forced to fund union dues in order to work. With it gone, “unions can now require all workers in a unionized workplace to pay fees for the cost of representation in bargaining,” according to Fox Business. Translation: you have to fund the union whether you like it or not.
Remember that labor unions are inherently political bodies. They extensively lobby the government, fund certain campaigns, and take a wide variety of left-of-center positions. As a result, basic freedom of association would suggest that workers cannot be forced to fund them against their will.
Imagine if part of your paycheck was forcibly taken and given to a political movement opposite your beliefs. Well, that’s the reality that will now face many Michigan workers—and Biden apparently thinks that’s a good thing:
Unions made Michigan a hub of American business, and an engine of America’s middle class.
A strong middle class benefits everybody.
Michigan is leading as a great place to be a worker and a great place to do business. https://t.co/1hJiOaDg9c
— President Biden (@POTUS) March 24, 2023
Meanwhile, most Republicans in the Michigan legislature opposed this change, citing the economic consequences.
“Businesses will find more competitive states for their manufacturing plants and research and development facilities, and workers and careers will drift away,” warned GOP leader Matt Hall.
These concerns are well-warranted. I’ve previously reported on the economic fallout that will accompany this change:
“Depriving private-sector union members of the freedom to choose whether or not to join a union will harm Michigan workers and also create a chilling effect for businesses that want to invest in our state,” the Michigan chapter of Americans for Prosperity, a fiscally conservative group, warns. “In 2021, Michigan began to lose population again, we ranked top in the country for small business closures and 6th for outbound moves. Our state and national economy are at a critical juncture, yet the labor policy agenda laid out by legislative leadership will result in an economic one-two punch that lacks consensus among Michigan voters.”
A comprehensive analysis from NERA Economic Consulting found that, all else equal, states with right-to-work laws are more likely to attract businesses and have better employment rates than states without them. While critics often argue right-to-work laws reduce wages, this analysis says the weight of evidence does not support that claim.
“While the economic results in these states do not by themselves demonstrate causality, they are broadly consistent with a substantial body of economic literature suggesting that, on balance, [right-to-work] laws lead to higher levels of economic performance,” Ph.D. economist Jeffrey A. Eisenach concluded.
Oh, and there’s an added twist to the betrayal here. When Gretchen Whitmer ran for governor, she promised not to sign bills that deny the Michigan public their ability to vote via referendum and repeal the law. However, this legislation specifically has a $1 million appropriation slapped onto it so that it is not subject to a referendum under the Michigan state Constitution. That’s right: It’s intentionally designed to avoid the people getting a say, and Whitmer’s signing it even though she promised to veto legislation that gamed the system in this manner.
Well, let’s be honest. The only people who “win” from this change are union officials, who are able to flood their coffers with more money now that they can force workers to fund them. And that means they have more money to donate to Democrats, like Gretchen Whitmer.
It’s the money, stupid.