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Original article URL: http://bridgemi.com/2012/03/whos-right-on-right-to-work/
22 March 2012
The recent decision by Indiana to become the 23rd state (and first in the Great Lakes region) to enact a Right to Work law had Lansing buzzing this winter that Michigan may soon be the next. At least one legislator was preparing to push the idea and Gov. Rick Snyder, while downplaying the concept, did not say he would veto a RTW bill that reached his desk. The terms of the debate have shifted in recent weeks, though, as a coalition of labor groups announced plans to place on the ballot a constitutional amendment to shield collective bargaining. Bridge Magazine asked advocates for each point of view to explain why their position is beneficial to Michigan.
|Collective bargaining protects middle class jobs by Jeff Bean, Flint High School teacher|
|The middle class isn’t the enemy — it’s the engine that drives our economy, pumping money into local small businesses and creating jobs. Yet Lansing politicians and corporate special interests are eroding the middle class by passing laws that help rich CEOs and attack basic collective bargaining rights.
Michiganders already are suffering, thanks to the actions of politicians in Lansing, who over the last year have passed laws that hurt children, seniors and families while doing nothing to jump-start our economy. It was just a year ago when they cut more than $1 billion from local K-12 schools and raised taxes on senior citizens, just to pay for a $1.8 billion tax giveaway for corporate special interests like insurance companies, big banks and oil companies.
Now politicians have about 80 bills sitting in the halls of the State Capitol that take clear aim at the workplace rights of people like teachers, firefighters, and nurses. These include bills that would: impose so-called Right to Work laws for teachers, and create new restrictions on workers’ abilities to peacefully demonstrate during a labor dispute. All of these bills – and dozens more — would weaken basic protections for working men and women, and dismantle our collective bargaining rights.
Enough is enough. A coalition of middle-class families is joining together and taking a stand. Grass-roots volunteers across Michigan are gathering signatures to put a constitutional amendment on the November ballot that will enshrine into the Michigan Constitution the basic right of every worker to collective bargaining. More information about this initiative can be found at protectourjobs.com.
Collective bargaining gives people the ability to come together and negotiate fair contracts, and help protect jobs, wages, benefits and safety for all workers. Without these basic collective bargaining protections, CEOs can fire people for no reason, cut people’s wages, eliminate retirement and health care benefits, and outsource jobs to countries such as China and Mexico.
Undermining basic collective bargaining rights won’t do a thing to jump-start our state’s economy. Instead, attacking collective bargaining will further weaken the middle class, harm small businesses and send even more jobs overseas.
The politicians and CEOs who favor weakening or ending collective bargaining say that cutting people’s wages will somehow encourage more businesses to come to Michigan. That’s simply not true. What the special interests behind efforts to weaken collective bargaining really want is a license to outsource jobs — just to pad their own profits.
Without basic collective bargaining rights, big corporations will get even richer while small businesses suffer. Weakening middle-class families’ wages ultimately means fewer trips to local small businesses like hardware stores and movie theaters. Without a middle-class customer base, small businesses will close and more jobs will disappear.
Attacking collective bargaining also hurts our kids. When teachers like me and school employees are stripped of our basic rights at the workplace, the quality of education suffers. Qualified teachers leave their jobs for other careers or teaching jobs in other states. The best and brightest future teachers leave the state right after graduation. Michigan kids end up paying the price.
The middle class was created right here in Michigan — and now it’s being smashed.
It’s time that middle class people speak out to protect their wages, benefits and workplace safety from continued attacks by politicians in Lansing.
Jeff Bean is a high school teacher with Flint Community Schools, and a leader with the Protect Our Jobs campaign, an effort supported by We Are the People, a labor advocacy group.
|Union leaders put workers, state in bind with onerous rules by Jared Rodriguez, West Michigan Policy Forum|
|Unions have long served an important purpose in Michigan. But when union leaders refuse to let employees choose whether to be in a union — and when they force employees to contribute to political causes regardless of personal support — we know there is a problem.There has been an increase in public discussion around Right to Work laws in Michigan and throughout the mid-west, but many misnomers still exist.
To be clear, RTW is about putting the responsibility and decisions of hard-working employees back in our own hands. RTW laws give every individual employee the right and freedom to choose. No one should ever be forced to join a union, just as no one should ever be forbidden to join a union. Everyone should be able to choose their own job or career path without fear of penalty or discrimination. Period.
RTW laws don’t ban unions, muzzle free speech or short-circuit the voices of employees. Seventeen percent of Michigan’s work force belongs to a union, and after a RTW law, the same percentage will still belong to a union — if employees believe that union bosses are representing their best interests. Maintaining good customer service and value is how most organizations gain members and have an impact. Labor unions aren’t above accountability and shouldn’t be treated different.
Our neighbors in Indiana have recently taken a giant step forward to support job creation. Lawmakers passed a RTW law in February, giving employees the right to choose whether or not they want to be part of a union. Similar efforts are being launched in Ohio and Minnesota.
Out of fear and protection for the “union institution,” union bosses from outside the state recently launched a ballot initiative in Michigan that, if passed, will result in “Do Not Enter” signs being hung at our border.
Currently, Michigan is a forced union membership state. So, why would union bosses attempt to enshrine their special interest agenda in Michigan’s Constitution and remove the checks and balances from the Legislature?
In a shameless political move, the union bosses admit that the ballot initiative was launched to boost voter turnout for their endorsed candidates in November. Unfortunately, the consequences of their actions will result in permanently stripping away employee’s rights, doing the exact opposite of what they advocate.
The irony would be funny if the stakes weren’t so high. Michiganders deserve better.
Like it or not, site selection consultants who prescreen potential new locations for companies routinely redline non-RTW states, effectively killing any shot Michigan has at landing many new jobs. The union boss amendment to the constitution will be an instant deal-killer for companies looking to tap into Michigan’s first-rate labor force.
The proposed constitutional amendment will do nothing more than protect the jobs, six-figure salaries and rich special interest benefits of the union bosses, while neutering the rights of the hard-working men and women in Michigan’s manufacturing facilities, hospitals, schools and communities. When union bosses decided to call their ballot initiative “Protect Our Jobs,” they meant it in the personal sense.
There is no doubt about it: Unions were essential in Michigan 50 years ago. They protected the worker and preserved balance in the economy.
The simple truth is, times have changed and union bosses haven’t. The hardworking people of Michigan have a right to be protected, but we cannot let union bosses destroy our economy with their divisive politics and their divide and conquer mentality.
There is a better way forward than to let the union bosses divide us and destroy jobs. I trust employees to make the right choice for themselves and their families.
Jared Rodriguez is president of the West Michigan Policy Forum, an advocacy group committed to bringing the business community’s “voice” to policy matters.