Michigan enacted right-to-work laws in 2012, despite opposition from unions that included the United Auto Workers. According to the Washington Examiner, UAW officials claimed that these laws, which would allow employees to hold positions without union membership, would ultimately hurt the workers they meant to protect.
Nonetheless, as the right-to-work era approaches its 10th anniversary, working conditions across the board have improved. Members might question the legitimacy of their unions, which claim to be crucial for an optimal work environment.
Disproving union arguments
Union leaders fought the laws with an arsenal of projections: unsafe workplaces, inadequate pay, poverty and unemployment. However, labor statistics unilaterally disprove each of these claims.
During the first five years after right-to-work laws went into effect, evidence shows a decrease in lost time due to worker injuries and no change to the fatality rate. Average wages have increased by over $100 per week and Michigan poverty has waned by almost 3%. Finally, the state has added at least 430,000 positions since the laws passed in 2012.
Questioning union value
Unions provided significant value to workers at the start of the American industrial age when manufacturers held supreme rule over their employees. Nowadays, the power balance has shifted to the union officials who control when members work, how to influence politics and how much they owe from their salaries to fund union agendas.
Still, automotive workers may wonder why they must pay dues while the Mackinac Center for Public Policy reports corruption charges among UAW leaders for pulling money allotted for worker training and using it for their own benefit. Right-to-work laws give employees the option of refusing to support unethical union practices, and members are responding by leaving.
Despite the decline in UAW numbers, the auto workforce is growing and experiencing an industry climate that may be better now than any period to date. These factors, which directly contradict the union’s purpose of supporting workers and improving conditions, could mean there is no longer much value in union membership.