In Michigan this week a Lame Duck set of state officials have now added their state to the 23 other states that are “Right to Work” states. This was accomplished without a popular vote by attaching the act to an appropriations bill that does not require a popular vote to be decided. Naturally, organized labor sees that as a dirty trick and will no doubt find legal mechanisms for seeking to reverse it.
My question is - given the large number of corporations in Michigan (think auto industry) who already have union represented workforces, how does this improve the situation? Yes, now an assembly plant worker can opt out of union membership and no longer be required to pay dues. However, if the union contract states that assembly workers in his or her plant are represented by the union, then that is still the case. In other words, management and union leaders will still be required to discuss and agree on the terms of employment for any assembly worker in that facility whether or not they are union members.
Politics aside, the goal for Michigan legislators is to assure their state offers corporations an opportunity to be winners in a competitive world. In a state that is so unionized already, that requires creating contracts and union/management relationships that support and sustain competitive workplaces. Their actions this week unfortunately are likely to make matters worse within the already unionized industries. It is very challenging for any union to represent workers who are not involved enough to pay membership dues or vote on their own contract.
State leaders encouraging local union and management leaders to take a collaborative approach to becoming more competitive is a far more logical path to a productive environment, especially in a state in which unions already represent a very significant portion of the population.
For an example of union/management collaboration leading to a more productive environment, see the Perry’s Ice Cream Case Study in the Our Clients section of the Overland Resource Group website at www.orginc.com.