I still remember the day in 1978 when I was hired in as a 19-year old at Chryslers’ Highland Park World Headquarters. As I was filling out my paperwork to authorize union dues to be taken out of my pay, I naively asked “What If I don’t want to join the union ?” The Chrysler Labor Relations manager chuckled and said “Son, if you want to work for Chrysler Corporation, you don’t have a choice”. The recently concluded contract talks between the “Big 3” Detroit auto-makers and the United Auto Workers clearly demonstrate why individual workers need to be given the choice of whether or not they want to join a labor union.
I worked for Chrysler Corp. for 11 years before accepting a buy-out, and have now worked at Ford Motor Co. for 15 yrs., so I think I have been around the domestic auto industry long enough to form an informed opinion about unions and union membership. And I don’t appreciate having my job held hostage by my co-workers vote on a contract offer that I support.
While I won’t dispute the historical contributions of unions and the benefits of collective-bargaining, I strongly support the right of individual workers to choose whether-or-not to join a union. Under current Michigan labor law, if the majority of the workers at a business vote to join a union, everyone else, and anyone who hires in to that business is required, by law, to join that union. This “forced-unionism” is called a “closed-shop”, and it has created an adversarial-labor situation where many businesses now won’t even consider locating in our state.
It is time to give Michigan workers a choice, like those in 22 other states enjoy. There is growing support for the “Freedom-to-Work” movement that would change state labor law to allow workers to choose for themselves. Too many businesses are avoiding Michigan due to the unchallenged control that unions have over the labor force. This is not 1940, and the days of organized-labor having to fight for safe working conditions, decent benefits, and fair pay are over. It is now time to look for ways to allow American companies to compete in a global marketplace. It’s 2011 and Michigan needs to change, or as Governor Snyder says; Re-invent Michigan.
The unions would fight any right-to-work legislation for one very simple reason; it will reduce their power. Right now, unions make campaign contributions to liberal, democrat lawmakers who will in-turn protect unions interests. This is exactly the type of cozy relationship voters say they don’t like between politicians and special interest groups. And typically, over 90% of Unions’ political-action-committee contributions go to Democrat candidates, with less than 5% going to Republicans. This does not reflect the fact that approximately 40% of union members sometimes vote Republican. Politifact.com reports that exit polls from 2008 showed that 39% of voters from union households voted for Republican John McCain for President. So why is it that unions contribute almost exclusively to Democrats ? That would almost certainly change if workers were given a choice as to whether-or-not they wanted to join a union when they hired into a job at a union organized shop. Unions would then have to compete for the workers allegiance and membership, and it would almost certainly affect their political alliances. That would seem to be a healthy thing to me.
Keep in mind; Right-to-work laws do not ban unions, they only give workers a choice as to whether-or-not they want to join the union. More and more union members, including myself, have begun to realize that the only REAL job security comes from working for a competitive, profitable company, not from a promise made by a company under the threat of a labor strike.