Right-to-work is a slippery beast, with ever-changing narratives and false poses among both its proponents and detractors.
Many proponents of Michigan’s new law now insist that it wasn’t done to curb union power and give business owners greater power over benefits and wages – and thus higher profits. In their narrative, the law was merely intended to create a better partnership between companies and employees by giving workers the right over whether they wish to join a union.
And union leaders have insisted the law poses no threat to them, and they don’t expect membership to diminish significantly.
Both narratives are a smoke-screen. Michigan’s new law was designed exactly to lure more industry to Michigan by enticing companies with limits on union power and higher profits. There can be no other reason why this law was such a high-priority among the business-friendly Republican majorities in the Legislature and Republican Gov. Rick Snyder.
And make no mistake, Michigan unions are terrified of right-to-work. How else to explain the 12,500 protestors, mostly union members, who picketed outside the Capitol the day it was signed into law.
Because right-to-work affects nearly all unionized workers in Michigan, there should be at least honest, clear discussion about its intent and its expected impact. The law’s true intent showed through recently when my colleague, Kristen Daum, noticed that the Michigan Economic Development Corp. made the claim on its website that right-to-work will mean "higher potential profits" for businesses investing in the state.
A grand, sweeping statement, to be sure, and great for any business that wants to increase profits (what business doesn’t?) Kristen called the MEDC to inquire about the basis for the claim. Was there data from the 20-plus other right-to-work states that supports the claim?
Her inquiry was met mostly with silence, and within a day, most references to the claim were removed from the web site for further “fact-checking,” according to MEDC officials. They may indeed be fact-checking, but more likely, they are wondering how blatantly the MEDC should imply that right-to-work will drive down employee wages in Michigan.
Meanwhile, Snyder continues to stand behind own earlier claim that right-to-work will lead to greater profits; asked by Kristen to support the statement, his spokesman replied that’s just what the governor believes.
Beliefs are great, but facts always trump them. We’ll continue to ask for the facts.