The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, September 26, 2014

Poll, perhaps, delivers RTW surprise for Michigan labor

By Marty Mulcahy, Editor

Maybe the shock of Michigan becoming a right-to-work state has worn off. Maybe the law that allows free-riders to decline to pay union dues but enjoy the higher pay and benefits provided by collective bargaining hasn’t affected enough workers.

Whatever the reasoning, the results of a statewide poll of 600 likely voters conducted Sept. 3-5 by Detroit News/Glengariff was surprising, and perhaps a bit shocking. Voters were asked in the poll if passage of Michigan’s Right to Work Law, which Gov. Rick Snyder signed in December 2012, would influence their vote this November .

Among respondents from union households in Michigan, 31.8 percent said the RTW law would have no effect on their vote for governor. In addition, 56.1 percent of those in union households who were polled said the RTW law would make them “more inclined” to vote for Democratic gubernatorial challenger Mark Schauer while 12.1 percent said it would make them more likely to support Snyder.

Dr. Dale Belman, a professor in the Michigan State University’s School of Labor & Industrial Relations, flipped the script on the polls results.

When asked if he was surprised that nearly one third of union households in Michigan did not see right-to-work as having an effect on this year’s election, Belman said “that’s not bad,” considering Michigan voters’ traditional role as ticket-splitting, Reagan-Democrats. “My reaction is that it’s only one-third of the voters,” he said. “Then that’s telling me that two-thirds are saying that right-to-work does have an effect, and that’s telling me that unions still have some work to do” in communicating with members.

The poll – the only one we have seen regarding the effect of right-to-work on this year’s election – found that from nonunion households, 46.2 percent said right-to-work would have no effect on who they support. The poll found that 25.8 percent said RTW made them more likely to support Schauer and 27.8 would be more likely to support Snyder.

Belman also said the results of the poll may be skewed by the questions themselves. Instead of asking respondents about who they would be “more inclined” to vote for as a result of the passage of right-to-work, Belman suggested asking “did right-to-work cause you to change your view of Snyder,” or “will Snyder’s support of right-to-work affect your vote.”

Belman said for the one-third of union households who said right-to-work would have no effect on their vote, he’d want to glean what respondents were thinking before RTW was passed, and whether its passage has caused their vote to change. “I can’t get too excited about this poll,” he said.