Hello Record-Eagle readers,
BBC News calls Michigan “a cradle of the U.S. labor movement,” so it makes news around the globe when Michigan’s legislature passes a right-to-work law that many consider “anti union,” and thousands of Michiganders are protesting against it across the state.
At the core of this issue is the strength, protection, viability, and ultimate affect organized labor has on a modern economy. Michigan is one of the most unionized, most heavily taxed states in the nation. It has also rested on the bottom of many lists and relative rankings of U.S. states in economic categories that we do not want to be anywhere near the bottom of.
How much of Michigan’s depressed economic position is a result of strong organized labor and widespread unionization? I am not speaking of the historical importance of labor organization in this country, but rather toward the recent and current economic status of the State of Michigan, particularly relative to other states in the U.S.
How important is organized labor strength to our economic health and growth in the future? Can we learn anything from State-by-State comparisons? This question is important for the economies and communities across northern Michigan, and affects both property values and the health of the real estate markets here, too.
CNN Money succinctly identifies the arguments for and against right-to-work measures like the one just passed this week in Michigan like this:
Advocates of the bill say it will help attract businesses to the state, but critics say that it would weaken labor’s bargaining strength by cutting union financial resources without doing anything to bring in more jobs.
It is Michigan’s status as an ancestral home of organized labor in America, and the current home of the United Auto Workers (UAW) Union for example, that prompts the BBC to call us “a cradle of the US labour movement.” Ironically, although Michigan is among the most unionized states in the country, with 17% of its population being union members, it has lost 13.8% of its jobs, across all sectors, since 2001 according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. That is nothing to brag about.
Most labor union money comes from dues and fees collected from a worker’s paycheck, oftentimes as a condition of employment. A right-to-work law, like the one Michigan just passed, prohibits unions from taking money from any worker’s income “who does not wish to contribute.” Proponents argue that in order for Michigan to climb up out of our economic morass, we need to be as competitive nationally and internationally as possible, that right-to-work legislation will help make Michigan much more competitive, and ultimately increase both wages and the number of jobs available.
In Michigan, unions have a legal responsibility to represent all labor employed by an employer, regardless of whether a worker is a member of the union or contributes in any way. Organized labor’s biggest objection seems to be one of “fairness,” that everyone who receives the benefits of organized representation in the workplace should be contributing. Also, unions argue that labor organization has greatly improved the plight and pay of the entire workforce over time, and attempts to diminish organized labor’s power places those advances, and the workforce, in jeopardy.
What do you think? Is this a savvy improvement to Michigan’s economic future, or a political maneuver utilizing numerical majority? Citizens across the United States and around the globe are watching closely as Michigan works through these labor questions. Are we giving Michigan’s economic recovery a shot in the arm or a blow to the head?
I Hope you are enjoying a warm holiday season that is just cold enough to keep the snow coming!
Re/Max Bayshore Properties