The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, October 24, 2014

Michigan's right-to-work law was all about GOP's attempt to bust state's unions

By The Building Tradesman

LANSING – After two years in office of denying that RTW was on his agenda, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed the measure in December 2012. According to the AP, Snyder pointed to reports that almost 90 companies have set up shop in Indiana (not true, by the way) after that state enacted RTW earlier in 2012.

But nearly two years later, no one, not even the law’s Republican backers or the Chamber of Commerce, claim that Michigan has gained a single employer or a single job as a result of right-to-work. Passage of the right-to-work law was simply about union busting, said Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer (D-East Lansing) in a floor speech about the law, just before it passed in 2012.

“We took an oath that we would do our best and what’s right for the future of Michigan and not let politics get in our way,” Whitmer told her Republican colleagues, who adopted the RTW bills with no Democratic lawmakers joining in. “If you honestly believe you are doing any of that here today, then you are more out of touch with the people of Michigan than they already thought. Let’s be clear. This legislation is petty and vindictive politics at its most disgusting.”

Proponents love to claim that RTW laws significantly improve job growth and workers’ wages. The evidence, however, shows the exact opposite of these claims to be true. EPI’s Sept. 2011 paper, ‘Right to work’: The wrong answer for Michigan’s economy, highlighted several reasons why RTW doesn’t work:

*RTW doesn’t boost economic growth. There’s no relationship between RTW laws and a state’s unemployment rate, per capita income, or job growth.

*RTW has no significant impact on attracting employers to a state.Surveys show RTW as a minor or non-existent factor for employers when they’re considering locations.

*RTW lowers wages. Both union and nonunion workers earn an average of $1,500 less per year in RTW states.

*RTW threatens employment benefits. Workers – both union and nonunion – are less likely to have either health insurance or pensions through their jobs in RTW states.

*RTW cuts wages and threatens to undermine job growth by reducing people’s discretionary income. When people have less discretionary income, they spend less, which in turn hurts the economy.

*Since non-manufacturing industries make up 85 percent of Michigan’s economy, widespread wage and benefit cuts as a result of going RTW will have a significant negative effect on economic conditions, without providing any plausible boost to the competitiveness of companies that remain or open up in Michigan.

(From a paper by Gordon Lafer, Economic Policy Institute)