Op-EdAppeared in Washington Examiner on February 29, 2024By Alfredo Ortiz

A right-to-work repeal warning from Michigan

Michigan Democrats’ repeal of right-to-work took effect this month, forcing unionized employees to belong and pay dues to their unions as a condition of employment. This marks the first time in 58 years a state has repealed a right-to-work law, which exists in 26 states and allows workers to opt out of union membership and dues.

Eliminating right-to-work is Michigan Democrats’ payback to the unions who fund their political campaigns. But don’t expect anti-worker Democrats in the pocket of Big Labor to wait another half-century for their next victim. They’ve already set their sights on Wisconsin.

Last week, Wisconsin Democrats successfully gerrymandered the state’s electoral districts, making it much easier for them to gain control of the state houses on Election Day. State Democrats, including Gov. Tony Evers, have been trying to repeal right-to-work for years, and it will be on the top of their agenda if they take control this fall. “We want Wisconsin to be the next Michigan” is the union boss mantra.

Yet Michigan should be a warning, not a beacon for other states. Evidence shows that reversing right-to-work is bad for workers, businesses, local economies, and even unions themselves. Michigan has already lost out on two major new plants from General Motors and Stellantis (Chrysler’s parent), which recently chose to invest across the state line in right-to-work Indiana. Michigan’s pain is Indiana’s gain.

Approximately 150,000 Michigan employees have voluntarily left their unions since 2013. They will now be forced to pay their unions around $1,000 in annual dues, an especially painful tax given the current cost-of-living crisis.

And they will be forced to contribute to their unions’ left-wing political spending they don’t support. The Wall Street Journal reported this week that many rank-and-file Michigan union members support former President Donald Trump. Yet their left-leaning union bosses will almost certainly spend their dues on left-wing causes. Being forced to choose between your paycheck and your political beliefs is un-American.

Forced unionization makes it more difficult for businesses to attract high-performing workers who want to bargain directly over wages and working conditions. These workers can no longer succeed on merit and initiative but rather must rely on union seniority agreements and pay tables. This does not reflect the 21st-century economy.

No business wants to be unionized because unions make workplaces less efficient and responsive. Unions in non-right-to-work states are far more powerful and aggressive because the financial rewards of organizing a workplace are much greater.

So, all else being equal, businesses will choose to locate elsewhere, hurting local economies. It’s no surprise that right-to-work states create far more jobs, especially manufacturing jobs, than forced unionization states. Repealing right-to-work is a self-inflicted wound for Michigan, which already has a declining population and precarious economy.

Ironically, forced unionization is also bad in the long term for unions because it means they no longer have to be responsive to members. In right-to-work states, workers can hold corrupt unions accountable by opting out of dues payments and membership. In forced unionization states, workers cannot hold unions accountable, facilitating rampant union corruption. Unsurprisingly, some of the nation’s most popular and effective unions, such as the Culinary Union in Las Vegas, operate in right-to-work states.

Labor issues such as right-to-work don’t get the attention they deserve. Yet these are the policies that actually impact ordinary Americans’ paychecks, economic security, and quality of life. Barring a Republican takeover this fall, it may be too late for Michigan, but Wisconsin should study these consequences and avoid making this mistake from across the lake.

Alfredo Ortiz is the CEO of Job Creators Network, author of The Real Race Revolutionaries, and co-host of the Main Street Matters podcast.