Jan 18, 2011
First order of business for House GOP is to shrink the middle class
It appears Michigan House Republicans are ignoring the wishes of new Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, and one of the first issues they plan to take up is the union busting so-called “Right to Work” law.
Rep. Marty Knollenberg, R-Troy, introduced House Bill 4054 on the first real session day of the 96th Legislature on Jan. 13 that would establish so-called “Right to Work” zones. Snyder said something so divisive is not part of his agenda.
The concept of RTW zones would resemble tax-advantaged enterprise zones, and in these zones, employees could decide individually whether they wanted to join or financially support a union. The concept is not new, and last session, former Sen. Nancy Cassis, R-Novi, pushed similar bills.
Republicans claim the law would do away with the requirement that workers must be in a union to be employed at a union shop. However, federal law already protects workers who don't want to join a union to get or keep their jobs, and the law gives workers the right to opt out of a union. But they must still pay union dues. RTW would give them the option of not paying dues while still enjoying the benefits of being in a union.
Unions in RTW states are required by law to defend non-dues-paying members involved in a dispute or charged with a grievance at work, but even those employees do not have to contribute dues. Making Michigan a right to work for less state does not give workers more rights, but instead it weakens unions and their ability to bargain for improved benefits and working conditions, which is the real intent of RTW. The union, by law, must represent all workers equally.
A better name for RTW is right to work for less. Workers in RTW states make an average of $5,900 less in annual salary, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In addition, the rate of workplace deaths is 41 percent higher in RTW states, according to the bureau, and 20 percent more workers in RTW states go without health insurance.
Passing RTW has long been a Republican goal, and in the last four years they have really made a serious push. However, they have failed to pass a state wide right to work for less law, and a threatened ballot initiative has also failed to materialize. The RTW zone seems to be a scaled down assault on the middle and working class that has been ongoing for more than 50 years.