Michigan’s “Right To Work” Status and the Unions That Forced It

Rebecca Smith is a contributor to The Brenner Brief. Her columns appear weekly on Tuesdays.

Rebecca Smith is a contributor to The Brenner Brief. Her columns appear weekly on Tuesdays.

Michigan will be the 24th state to achieve Right To Work (RTW) status.  The Republican Representatives’ passage of the bill came out of left field and caught everyone off guard, especially since the Michigan Governor, Rick Snyder,  stated several times that right to work was not a battle he wished to take on.  So, what spurred Republicans to act so decisively and with such speed?  Perhaps the unions gave the go ahead to Republican lawmakers.

Right to work was not a fight Michigan Republicans wanted to take on.  There was no way of gauging how the public felt, and while Wisconsin Republicans, thru a lengthy battle, may have come up winners, in Ohio it went down in flames and cost the Republicans some points in the favorability polls.  The unions in Michigan had a Republican Governor who was willing to work with them.  All should have been happy with that unspoken or spoken agreement.  However, sadly, the unions once again could not allow a good thing to continue especially when it meant working with Republicans.

Then enters Bob King, president of the UAW and town idiot.  Instead of reveling in a Republican Governor, Senate, and House, that feared any move towards RTW would cost them in the polls, Mr. King and friends decided to poke at the Republican controlled state government and it ended up costing them big time.

With Bob King leading the way, union leaders surprised Detroit community activists February 2 when he revealed the plan for Proposition 2 at a small forum.  Proposition 2 would prohibit the legislature from crafting new laws that infringe on collective bargaining rights in the private or public sectors which was an open shot across the bow of Governor Snyder’s emergency management law.  The emergency management law passed last year, over heated objections from unions, because it allows Snyder to appoint overseers for cities or school districts operating in the red. They have the power to cancel union contracts, sell off local assets, and remove elected local officials.

The union activists were able to get the needed signatures for Proposition 2 to be placed on the November ballot, but were unable to build a coalition of support.  Proposition 2 was defeated by a margin of 57 to 42 percent.

Republicans occupying the state’s Senate and House saw that as a sign that even if Michiganders did not overwhelmingly support right to work, they would not push to overturn it.  Hence, the unions, by trying to hamstring the Republican lawmakers from behaving in fiscally sound way, shot themselves in the foot.

Currently public opinion looks to be close to an even split on right to work, with a slight advantage to supporting it.  Less than 2 percent of the voters are undecided on the matter.

I think the public will have zero appetite for a fight over this, and the way it’s been written — tied to an appropriation — it can’t be overturned by a vote of the public.  I’m not sure what it would take to reverse this down the road, but the Democrats won’t have a majority in either House for the next two years. By then, if public opinion is leaning towards right to work, it will be there to stay.


  1. […] Rebecca Smith reported Tuesday on The Brenner Brief, the unions fired across the governor’s bow in February by […]

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