Snyder was among the Midwestern Republican governors who leveled an assault on unions in 2011, but right-to-work, which effectively undermines union activities by allowing non-union workers to free-ride on union-negotiated contracts, is a new front in that fight. Indiana passed right-to-work legislation earlier this year, and by following suit, Michigan can remain competitive with its neighbor while also becoming a better place for workers, Snyder claimed in a video posted by The Detroit News:
SNYDER: There are two main reasons I’m asking the Michigan legislature to move forward on a package of bills on workplace fairness and equity, and I’m going to sign those bills when they come to my desk. First, it’s about being pro-worker. It’s about hard-working Michiganders having the freedom to choose who they associate with. [...]
The second one is about being more healthy in Michigan, in terms of our economy. If you look at the numbers, the last two years we’ve done well. We added 140,000 jobs. We’re forecasted to add 110,000 jobs over the next two years. [...] I want to see that rate go up, to even be bigger and better. And when I looked at Indiana, here’s an opportunity to see that pace increase.
Though Snyder refers to his agenda as “pro-worker,” a quick glance at studies of “right-to-work” legislation paints a different picture. According to the Economic Policy Institute, right-to-work laws have virtually no impact on job growth and have a negative impact on both union and nonunion workers, reducing wages by up to $1,500 a year. A Ball State University study conducted during Indiana’s push to pass right-to-work found that “no impact is likely” for job growth or wages in the manufacturing sector. Another EPI study suggests that right-to-work laws had a negative impact on Oklahoma’s economy and that right-to-work is “is ineffective as a strategy for increasing a state’s employment.”
The right-to-work experiment failed miserably the last time it was tried in the Midwest. Indiana originally passed right-to-work laws in 1957, but orkers hated the new laws so much that they were repealed just eight years later.
At least eight protesters have been arrested outside the Michigan state capitol during protests of the right-to-work legislation, and police have used pepper spray on other protesters who tried to entire the capitol, the Lansing State-Journal reported. The capitol is currently in “exit-only” mode, according to state police.
Michigan Rep. Gary Peters (D) slammed Snyder’s push for right-to-work in a statement on his web site, saying: “Governor Snyder campaigned on a promise of unity, but instead he’s ushering in an era of divisiveness across Michigan by launching an attack against working families. … Just like Scott Walker, Governor Snyder’s flip flop is clearly a calculated decision to put his own political ambitions ahead of the families he’s supposed to be working for. I stand in solidarity with Michigan’s working families, and we will never stop fighting against this unprecedented and reckless action by Governor Snyder.”
Michigan’s state House has passed the right-to-work legislation by a vote of 58-52. Six Republicans voted against it.
The Obama administration came out against the measure in a statement to the Huffington Post:
“President Obama has long opposed so-called ‘right to work’ laws and he continues to oppose them now,” said White House spokesperson Matt Lehrich. “The President believes our economy is stronger when workers get good wages and good benefits, and he opposes attempts to roll back their rights. Michigan – and its workers’ role in the revival of the US automobile industry – is a prime example of how unions have helped build a strong middle class and a strong American economy.”