Michigan became the 24th right-to-work state on Tuesday when Governor Rick Snyder signed two bills ensuring that employees will not be forced to pay a union just to keep their jobs. Police and fire unions were the only ones not included in the reforms.
While labor makes grand plans for a response after a long, loud, and violent day of protesting, little is mentioned on what this means for unions and their members.
The most popular misconception is that right-to-work laws eliminate all collective bargaining and do not allow employees to unionize. That’s wholly incorrect. Right-to-work laws change the status quo: rather than forcing employees to pay the union, either by member dues or non-member agency fees, those employees can opt out of this compulsory association.
At the heart of the right-to-work issue is something often ignored in reporting and in the debate: freedom. As President Obama said, politics have dominated the right-to-work conversation. That should not be the case. The idea that someone must pay another just to be able to hold a job is a bizarre concept, but it’s one that has long been considered acceptable. An employee should have the freedom to work wherever he or she is hired and not be forced to pay a third party for the privilege.
Michigan is the second state this year to go right-to-work—Indiana did so in February. This is another step in the long history of labor reform. Instead of looking for ways to turn back progress, labor unions should consider the reasons why members want to be able to avoid them.