Traverse City Record-Eagle


Is a right-to-work law good for Michigan?

Team Mike, Ask The RealtorsHello 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!

Mike Gaines

Re/Max Bayshore Properties

  • Ed Hahnenberg

    Mike…No offense, but you wrote the perfect blog, giving both sides without your own opinion. What is it? CNN aired a segment on Michigan’s passage of a right-to-work law that was littered with misinformation, including the right-wing myth that workers in states without such laws are forced to join unions. In reality, federal law already prohibits unions from requiring workers to be members. Everyone who knows the history of unions realizes that the union movement contributed greatly to American prosperity. However, as globalization brought players like China, India, a host of Asian countries, whose citizens were willing to work for $5 a week a opposed to $50 an hour, the inevitable happened. Companies aren’t stupid, so outsourcing has become the standard. I see Walmart employees working late on Thanksgiving, despite union opposition. Competition isn’t driven by high pensions and legal representation provided by unions. Michigan’s law is more mild than that of Wisconsin or of Indiana. For me, a former union member of the teacher’s union in Michigan, I shuddered when it supported Fieger (Dr. Death’s attorney) for governor years ago. Also, union leadership today, by and large, support the Democratic platform, which, in this last election, was pro-choice, pro-gay marriage, pro Planned Parenthood, and, at the DNC, shouted down mention of God.

    I realize that my pension, due to my age, remains secure. However, as a non-union member also in my role as a secondary school administrator, I saw tenured teachers of three decades not having taken any classes to update their teacher skills and knowledge. Globalization is raising standards of living in countries less fortunate than ours and states that offer a choice for unionization will be the only factor that brings jobs back here.

    • poetman

      Stick to Astronomy, Mr. Ed. It’s a topic you know something about and are good at.

      • Ed Hahnenberg

        Poetman…What is your experience in Michigan as a union member? If you have had any, give your opinion, without your generic put-down. I have had both experiences in education, as a teacher and administrator. I am waiting for Mr. Gaines to give his opinion.

        I’ve heard this comment from you before regarding my presentation on the Historical-Critical Method re:, which you erased quickly. (Strange, because you espouse what I presented.)

        As to the effects of globalization, I wonder if you have ever studied or taught that as I did, way back when Thomas Friedman published his book “The Lexus and the Olive Tree.” It wasn’t rocket science then to see what would happen to jobs here in America.

        • poetman

          Thanks, Mister Ed, You ARE really good at Astronomy. It is a wonderful Gift.

          • Ed Hahnenberg

            Poetman…I guess I misjudged your response. Sorry about that. To be honest, I still consider myself a beginner in astrophotography. However, I am branching out to solar, lunar, and planetary imaging. Here is an image I took this afternoon of the moon in broad daylight. However, with a new CCD camera, matching software, this is the final result of 1000 images, aligned, stacked, and sorted…with final processing in Photoshop.

        • poetman

          Have you viewed The Star of Bethlehem by Rick Larson? If so, what’s your opinion? If not, you should; it’s amazing.

          • Ed Hahnenberg

            Poetman…Larsen’s view is well known to me. Suggestions range from the idea that it was an example of Midrash, wherein the writer of Matthew’s Gospel used the myths of a “star” to indicate the birth of a great personage. Examples include stories of a star appearing at the birth of Abraham, Moses and several of the Roman Caesars.

            Other theories of the star of Bethlehem include the explanation that a comet appeared around the time of Jesus’ birth. Comets often have tails and these can be imagined to point towards or away from any point near the horizon.

            Conjunctions of planets, particularly of Jupiter and Saturn, were used in that time to signal great events, such as the birth of rulers. Conjunctions, as astronomers refer to them, are common occurrences — they take place at periodic intervals as the planets orbit the sun at differing angular velocities.

            Planets also had meanings because of their appearance in the sky. Jupiter, being visible as a large star-like object, was thought to be the “royal” star. Saturn and Venus also held various meanings in different cultures.

            However, Mark Kidger, in his best-selling book “The Star of Bethlehem” (Princeton University Press, 1999) suggests that there really was a star of Bethlehem. He says that DO Aquilae, still visible as a faint star, erupted in 5 B.C., was visible during daylight and recorded by Chinese astrologers, and fit the criteria as the guiding star for the Magi. This theory is mentioned by Kelly in his book.

            I had the opportunity to image the exact area where DO Aquilae is located. The image below is circled simply because the star is so faint I cannot tell which it is. Click on the image for a larger view.

            May you have a holy Christmas!

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