Unions are a facet many people living in Michigan are tied to. The state has dealt with them since the New Deal, when the Roosevelt Administration finally allowed the unions to represent workers free of corporate obstruction.
However, the dynamics in Indiana, and possibly the Midwest, might have just changed, because Indiana became a so-called “right-to-work” state, where union membership is not mandatory in an industry for employment.
I’m not against unions, per se. I naturally distrust any large organization with economic and political power; unions have wielded both in Michigan and nationally. The defense of their jobs at the expense of progress is simply self preservation.
They also perpetuate class warfare, but that’s a different discussion.
The recently enacted law in Indiana is groundbreaking simply because it exists.
A New York Times article notes this legislation “which bars union contracts from requiring non-union members to pay fees for representation, makes Indiana the first state in more than a decade to enact right-to-work legislation, and the only one in the Midwestern manufacturing belt to have such a law.”
So, non-union members are now free from the oppression of the unions. At last the workers can rise against the dominating forces stopping progress and ingenuity in the name of overpaid overtime and legacy employment.
Getting back to Michigan, Republican Representative Mike Shirkey is planning to introduce a bill that would make Michigan a right-to-work state.
In an article from Michigan Radio, he said, “I don’t believe unions are evil. This is not about getting rid of unions whatsoever. It is simply about providing the opportunity for each individual to choose whether they want to belong to a union or not.”
I concur. Unions have their place, and when they do what they were meant to do – ensure fair wages, safe working conditions, human dignity and collective bargaining rights to ensure the previous items – they’re fine.
So the debacle in Indiana awhile back about limiting union bargaining rights was a bit disconcerting. Although, that was public sector unions, which is a different issue.
Michigan’s future is in doubt right now, and a lot of new ideas are being tossed around to help the state. Reducing union power in the name of individual freedom might help or it might not.
On the one hand, people might be better able to get jobs. Of course, one can also argue non-union workers are the first ones laid off.
Unions and right-to-work are two sides that each have good points and bad points. So if Michigan is seriously going to consider curtailing union power and allowing people the ability to work where they want without union influence, it needs to do so carefully. Not only are unions an important part of Michigan politics, there an important part of our economy, too.