In Michigan right to work has been a cornerstone of a plan to make it a top 10 state for business. A repeal of the law is a step backward not forward.
Michigan Democrats are rapidly moving to repeal our state’s right-to-work law, with the state House voting to do so on March 8th. As a longtime advocate for Michigan families and job creators, I can hardly imagine a more foolish path. Repealing right to work will send a message that our state is closed for business, and workers and families will suffer from lower wages, higher poverty, and above all else, less freedom.
Michigan should be doubling down on pro-growth policies like right to work, not rolling back the progress we’ve made. And if repeal succeeds, it will surely provoke a strong response. Michigan businesses and families will push for a ballot initiative to bring back right to work. Given how overwhelmingly popular the law is, our politicians should be worried about wasting time on an ultimately doomed effort.
What’s happening in Michigan is the direct result of the November elections. Democrats won control of the legislature for the first time in nearly four decades, and with Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer also winning re-election, they immediately made clear their intention to get rid of right to work – despite hardly mentioning it in their campaigns.
This law, enacted in 2012, gives workers the freedom to decide for themselves whether to join a union and pay dues. Unions are free to make their case, and workers are free to make their choice.
The House’s vote would flip the script, eliminating worker freedom while enshrining union power in law. The Senate will take up repeal soon, and Gov. Whitmer will sign it if it reaches her desk, making Michigan the first state to repeal right to work since the 1960s. Yet politicians are ignoring the serious damage this will do Michigan’s economic comeback.
I can attest that right to work is one of the biggest factors when a company is deciding whether to expand or locate somewhere. It’s often the gateway – the opening that businesses look for first, before considering other factors like taxes, regulation, and cost of living. If the gateway is closed, then companies are much less likely to keep considering the state.
For Michigan, right to work has been the cornerstone of our economic development plan, and it came with the promise that we could become a top 10 state. It sent a message that we wanted to compete – and win – after decades of losing out to pretty much everyone, including Indiana, Wisconsin, Kentucky, and Tennessee.
The evidence in favor of right to work has long been clear. Going back years, right-to-work states have seen faster job growth, faster income growth, and faster population growth. That’s exactly what Michigan needed when right-to-work passed, and we’ve since moved past non-right-to-work states in many key economic and quality-of-life indicators since then, from rising incomes to falling unemployment and poverty. Research even shows that Michigan has many more manufacturing jobs now than we would have had without this law.
These economic facts prove Michigan was right to go right to work in the first place. They also remind us why Michiganders broadly support this common-sense law.
In 2012, just one month before this law passed, voters broadly rejected a ban on right to work by a 15-point margin. Clearly, our state’s citizens wanted to move toward worker freedom and the economic growth such freedom brings. They got their wish when right to work became law.
Have Michiganders changed their minds in the past decade? Hardly. In the last few months, poll after poll shows that support for right to work has grown since 2012. Even most Democrats and people in union households support the law. This makes sense: Right to work forces unions to provide the best possible value to their members, who have the freedom to walk away if the dues aren’t worth it. Repeal would revoke that freedom, and with it, unions’ incentive to work hard for workers’ money.
This enduring and growing support for right to work should give the Senate pause before taking up the repeal passed by the House. If lawmakers move forward, they will be effectively saying they want our state to move backward, away from worker freedom and being a top-10 state. Surely, Michigan families will want a say in whether our state declines, which is why a ballot initiative is now on the table.
Someone has to fight for our state, and if our legislators and governor won’t, the people of Michigan will.
By Doug DeVos, WMPF Past Chair. Originally published on FoxNews.com on March 13, 2023.