Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Case for Michigan's Union Busting Law

I'm not quite as bent out of shape over Michigan's passage of a right to work law as some in my philosophical camp obviously are. There is outrage among most liberals, but I think the outrage is more about how this was accomplished than that it was accomplished.

We've had right to work laws in a number of states for many years and I don't think that--by itself--has caused the considerable shrinkage in union membership (and the resulting loss of our middle class) that we've seen over the past four decades. Frankly, there's a good bit more to it than that--including the law in some states making union membership compulsory. That's bullshit, especially now. I can see how it was necessary at the early stages of union building, but there was a lot that was necessary then (including violence) that we can do without now.

I know the argument that non-members are getting the benefits members pay for and that laws forbid different paychecks and benefits for people doing the same jobs--regardless of union requirements. But I think unions would be much better off selling their services based on merit and accomplishment than on legal requirements. If a union is necessary because of a company's actions and has a good track record, my guess is that most of the employees of a certain group will join. They need to have the choice, though. A person who is a member of anything that he either doesn't like, doesn't trust or has philosophical disagreements with is not a very good member.

Union busting is what Republicans do. It's what they've always done. They hate unions because they make the Republican base uncomfortable. With unions, that base of owners and executives very often has to act like decent human beings and that is an unspeakable act for many of them. Still, if unions are to get some strength back, they need to attract membership based on something other than force. If they do it as they originally did it--working honestly and with fervor for a common purpose--my guess is that they will regain prominence.


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