There are some people claiming that now is not the right time to pursue right to work in Michigan. However, it is important to note that "right to work" is about getting people "back to work." We cannot say "not now" to folks who are unemployed. We need a sense of urgency in our pursuit to get Michigan back to work.
This past year, under the leadership of our Governor Rick Snyder, Michigan has taken great strides to improve the job growth environment in our state, but we all agree that there are significant reforms that still need to be adopted. In the Senate, we have outlined a job growth policy featuring significant tax and regulatory reforms along with investments in infrastructure. These are all important initiatives that will spur job growth. We still need to do more, though, to make Michigan #1 in job growth.
An examination of the policies in states with significant job growth reveals that one of the largest remaining obstacles in Michigan to job growth is forced unionization. The case for labor freedom is compelling. The top five job growth states from 1999 to 2009 are right to work states. The bottom five over that same period are non-right to work states including Michigan, which ranks 50th in job growth. Over that same time period, real personal income grew twice as fast in right to work states than non-right to work states and the per capita personal income in 2/3 of the right to work states is higher than in Michigan. In addition, the last 10 new auto manufacturing plants have been built in right to work states.
I know that there are folks who are attempting to paint a different picture, but the positive impact of "right to work" where it has been implemented is undeniable. Rather than get engaged in a match of statistician Ping-Pong, though, I simply ask you to ask yourself the following questions: Where are your kids going to find work once they graduate? Where are your grandkids going? Where are your neighbors moving? Odds are that your answers feature right to work states.
This begs the question…why haven't we pursued right to work in Michigan? The answer, quite simply, is "fear." For years, we have avoided a substantive discussion on labor freedom because there are those who fear "a divisive confrontation." Meanwhile, we continue to lose jobs and break up families as our youth seek better fortunes in other states.
It doesn't have to be a divisive confrontation. The truth is that labor freedom is not anti-union. On the contrary, it promises to strengthen unions by making union management more accountable to the members that they represent. One could make the case that the status quo featuring forced unionization is anti-union. In 1999, Michigan had 963,000 union jobs. Today, we only have 627,000 union jobs. Union rank and file members are among those pushing for labor freedom as a means of making unions more responsive to their views.
Currently, 17% of Michigan's workforce is unionized. When labor freedom legislation is passed, the fact is that we will still have 17% of Michigan's workforce in unions – if union management is responsive to the needs of their members. As we grow jobs in Michigan, the fact is that we will grow more union jobs – if union management is responsive to the needs of their members.
I am a staunch supporter of the right of individuals to join a union, but I will also vigorously defend the rights of individuals who do not wish to join a union. This is America…the land of the free and home of the brave. It is time to restore our commitment to the principles that made our country the most prosperous country in the history of the world. It is time to commit ourselves to labor freedom.