For the past week we’ve heard from breathless activists and politicians and biased journalists ranting about the Michigan legislature and governor moving to give the state’s citizens the freedom to work. Add the President of the United States to that list. According to the White House transcript, Barack Obama told a crowd in Michigan:
[W]hat we shouldn’t be doing is trying to take away your rights to bargain for better wages and working conditions. We shouldn’t be doing that. These so-called “right to work” laws, they don’t have to do with economics; they have everything to do with politics. What they’re really talking about is giving you the right to work for less money.
First, it’s clear that Obama took notes on labor talking points after his meeting with union leaders last month. “Right to work for less” is a tired old labor slogan, dragged out of the rhetorical trash every time a state legislature tries to reform labor laws.
Second, and more importantly, Obama is half right—if not for politics, it’s doubtful that either party, including Democrats, would be in favor of compulsory association and payment. But Democrats have benefited from labor unions, using member rolls to get out the vote and to collect dues that go towards political activity. This year was no different, as labor came out strong for Obama. The President’s continued support of forced unionism is part of the payback to labor that he failed to accomplish with EFCA in his first term.
If these dues did not go towards supporting politicians, which one would stand up and advocate for union dues and agency fees? Obama has put politics, and political money, ahead of what should be a basic right.
Right to work is also about economics and jobs. Michiganders need look no further than their neighbors to the south, Indiana. The Mackinac Center found that in the few months since Indiana passed its own right-to-work bill, the state has gained 43,000 jobs while Michigan has lost 7,300. And as Rich Lowry notes in the New York Post:
One study, by a University of Minnesota economist, looked at states bordering one another with and without right-to-work laws. It found “an abrupt change” when crossing the border into a right-to-work state, and “that manufacturing’s share of total employment increases about one-third.”
The benefits for the citizens of the soon-to-be 24 states that enjoy the right to work are advantages of freedom and economics.