Editorial: Free workers by passing federal right-to-work law
When labor unions were still relevant, Labor Day was a holiday of
union-sponsored parades and picnics, a chance to pause from the daily
grind and celebrate the strength of solidarity.
But today, most people won't even think about labor unions as they go
about enjoying what for all practical purposes is the last day of
summer. That's because most American workers don't belong to a union and
never have. Nor do they want to.
Just 12 percent of employees in the United States are union members.
That's down from 20 percent in 1983 and is falling steadily. The loss of
manufacturing jobs certainly has hurt Big Labor.
But so has its inability to connect with workers employed outside of
factories and government offices.
Today's worker is more independent, more mobile and more comfortable
interacting with his or her employer as an individual, rather than as
part of a collective bargaining unit.
Still, too many workers are trapped against their will in unions they
were forced to join by state and federal laws that support compulsory
union membership and automatic dues deductions.
With Congress now under Democratic control, efforts have stepped up to
strengthen those laws and undermine the ability of states to pass
right-to-work legislation, which allows workers a choice in whether or
not they join the union. Currently, 22 states have right-to-work laws.
Michigan should join them. Freeing workers from compulsory union
membership would send an important signal that Big Labor no longer
dictates policy and controls politics in Michigan.
The economies of the right-to-work states are growing far faster than
the rest of the nation. That alone should be incentive for the state to
modernize its labor laws.
As for Congress, instead of limiting the ability of states to protect
workers from union conscription, it would do better to pass the National
Right to Work Act that has been introduced several times, but without
Workers who want to join a union should have that right. But workers who
don't want to join should have their rights respected, too.