The Right Opinion

Michigan's Watershed Moment

By George Will · Dec. 16, 2012

WASHINGTON – Rick Snyder, who is hardly a human cactus, warned Michigan's labor leaders. The state's mild-mannered Republican governor, currently in his first term in his first public office, has rarely been accused of being, or praised for being, a fire-breathing conservative. When unions put on Michigan's November ballot two measures that would have entrenched collective bargaining rights in the state Constitution, Snyder told them they were picking a fight they might regret.

Both measures lost resoundingly in the state with the fifth highest rate of unionization (17.5 percent, down from 28.4 percent in 1985) and, not coincidentally, the sixth highest unemployment rate (9.1 percent). And Republicans decided to build upon that outcome by striking a blow for individual liberty and against coerced funding of the Democratic Party. Hence the right-to-work laws passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature to prohibit the requirement of paying union dues as a condition of employment.

The unions' frenzy against this freedom is as understandable as their desire to abolish the right of secret ballots in unionization elections: Freedom is not the unions' friend. After Colorado in 2001 required public employees unions to have annual votes reauthorizing collection of dues, membership in the Colorado Association of Public Employees declined 70 percent. After Indiana's government in 2005 stopped collecting dues from unionized public employees, the number of dues-paying members plummeted 90 percent. In Utah, the automatic dues deductions for political activities was ended in 2001; made voluntary, payments from teachers declined 90 percent. After a similar measure in Washington state in 1992, the percentage of teachers making contributions fell from 82 to 11. The Democratic Party's desperate opposition to the liberation of workers from compulsory membership in unions is because unions are conveyor belts moving coerced dues money into the party.

Nationwide, resentment of union power has been accumulating like steam in a boiler. The Wall Street Journal reports that in the last four years “nearly every state … has enacted some form of pension changes” clawing back unsustainable benefits promised to unionized government employees. The most conspicuous battle was in Wisconsin, where Republican Gov. Scott Walker survived organized labor's attempt to recall him as punishment for restricting collective bargaining by unionized government workers. After Walker's reforms, Indiana under Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels became the 23rd right-to-work state, and the first in the industrial Midwest.

By becoming the 24th right-to-work state, Michigan is belatedly becoming serious about what Daniel Boorstin, the late historian and Librarian of Congress, called entrepreneurial federalism. This is the wholesome competition among states to emulate others' best practices, and to avoid and exploit others' follies.

Indiana and Wisconsin are, fortunately for them, contiguous to Illinois, where Democratic power is completely unrestrained and spectacularly unsuccessful. Indiana noticed Wisconsin's competitive advantage in attracting businesses from Illinois and elsewhere. Michigan also has noticed. Yet unions call what Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin have done a “race to the bottom.” This flapdoodle and folderol come from unions that have contributed mightily to Michigan's painful acquaintance with the bottom.

If you seek a monument to Michigan's unions, look, if you can without wincing, at Detroit, where the amount of vacant land is approaching the size of Paris. And where the United Auto Workers, which once had more than 1 million members and now has about 380,000, won contracts that crippled the local industry – and prompted the growth of the non-unionized auto industry that is thriving elsewhere. Detroit's rapacious and oblivious government employees unions are parasitic off a near-corpse of a city that has lost 25 percent of its population just since 2000. The Wall Street Journal reports that because some government workers with defined-benefit pensions can retire in their 40s, “many retirees living into their 80s are drawing benefits for nearly twice as long as they work.”

Many liberals who, with solemn self-congratulation, call themselves “pro-choice” become testy when the right to choose is not confined to choosing to kill unborn babies. They say the right to choose is not progressive when it enables parents to choose their children's schools, or permits workers to choose not to fund unions' political advocacy.

Democrats who soon will celebrate two of their party's saints at Jefferson-Jackson Day dinners should jettison either their opposition to right-to-work laws or their reverence for Jefferson, who said: “To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.”

© 2012, Washington Post Writers Group

7 Comments

Tod the tool guy in brooklyn ny said:

Ten years ago, I had a choice in my transport workers union; I could do nothing & "donate" 30 cents a paycheck, to smelly rat causes, in Albany(Our State Capitol), or write a letter to nix the contribution, since I was rapidly becoming a fire-breathing conservative. The shop agency fees-I could not molest. I'm glad my mother did not abort me! Merry Christmas, Uncle George!

Sunday, December 16, 2012 at 7:24 AM

septuagenarian in Canada said:

The shooter may not have even entered the school if the school administrators were armed and the shooter was aware of that. Predictably, the leftist media in Canada was quick to point out that the US is a country with the right to own and carry arms, but lacks the right to medical care. I lost no time in sending off an email to the TV station that they were there to report the news, not editorialize. Canada has much stricter gun laws, but on a per-capita basis has as much gun violence as the US. Guns are not to blame any more than knives, baseball bats or poisons are to blame for the atrocities of humans on their fellow humans. If anything, it is a permissive, amoral society that is to blame. We now live in a world where everything that was once wrong is now right...and where everything that was once right is now wrong. As long as that trend continues, so will the violence.

Sunday, December 16, 2012 at 10:20 AM

Jeremy in CA said:

This hits the nail on the head. Forced unionization is indeed "...coerced funding of the Democratic Party" and I'm one of those who is coerced. I refuse to join a public employee union in CA, but they still take more than $50 from every paycheck, and that money is funneled directly into the pockets of politicians who turn my stomach. This is an obvious violation of my constitutional rights, yet the Dems see no evil.

Sunday, December 16, 2012 at 11:57 AM

Richard J. Abbate of CT in Cheshire, CT said:

As a life long Connecticut resident, a strong, vocal and active supporter of our Constitutional right to keep and bear arms (it is in our Constitution State's constitution as well), and a grandfather with grand children in a small local school, my reaction to the Sandy Hook tragedy carries some extra weight I believe.

This idea that by declaring areas as "gun free zones" some how keeps criminal elements at bay, is so patently stupid, nonsensical, and depraved that I wonder if the perpetrators of such are not insane themselves. As a 'sticker' in the window of my vehicle states, "Criminals Prefer Unarmed Victims", and that is exactly what the insane criminal in Sandy Hook found. Un-armed guardians of our most precious generation. I commend the Principal and the other person who attempted to thwart the assault. But unarmed as they were, they were powerless in the face of depravity. No one would expect the children to defend themselves, but their parents should have expected there to be at least one person, if not several, to be prepared to mount a successful defense of their little charges. The world is not and never has been a 'safe' place.

There will be those who will argue, with significant vehemence but lack of sufficient intelligence, that the very presence of a firearm presupposes danger and violence. But for anyone with enough sense to see the world as it is, and always has been, they will recognize that the presence of a credible defense will, in and of itself, ward off the depredations of a character like the one that perpetrated this horror on our society, our families and our children.

Those with common sense must rise up and say, never again will we entrust our children (our lives or our property) to those who will neither understand or implement the proper safeguards.
It is not the guns that foster violence, it is the criminal, insensitive, and deranged minds of some members of our human family that bring into being these acts beyond our understanding.
RJA

Sunday, December 16, 2012 at 12:18 PM

Frank B in Ohio replied:

A great response Richard, I took the liberty of sending it to my wife who is starting to get weak kneed about this issue. I believe that Obama and Eric Holder are licking their lips about this "opportunity" for them. I see the onslaught coming. But I am not gving up my tools for defence!

Sunday, December 16, 2012 at 12:52 PM

enemaofthestatistquo in Monroe, GA said:

I'm reminded and I have posted of this before, but I repeat. Several years past a double murder was committed in an Atlanta Public Housing Project, the Police announced it to be drug-related. Drugs trafficking in a Public Housing Project I am Shocked. Anyway, what was also noted was the murder of the family dog, probably due to barking or defending its masters. An interview of a neighbor by the local WSB-TV 2 News ironically had a "Gun-Free Zone" sign directly behind the interviewee, a "Drug Free Zone" sign was not within camera range.

Sunday, December 16, 2012 at 7:13 PM

Tod the tool guy in brooklyn ny said:

We kept the television off for 48 hours, to achieve a mediafree zone, in our home! I only check fox news, these days, this site, and the American Spectator, oh--national review, too.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012 at 6:00 AM