Michigan’s enactment of right-to-work legislation this week is a major win for the conservative movement. Predictably, the established labor unions are lashing out at the laws and calling them unfair “right-to-freeload” measures.

But as Heritage Foundation labor expert James Sherk writes in the Detroit News, the unions have it wrong. Unions are free to negotiate only on behalf of their members, so workers who don’t join their colleagues in a union aren’t necessarily “freeloading”:

The chief argument against right-to-work laws is factually incorrect. Although most union members do not know it, the law does not require their union to negotiate on behalf of non-members.

The National Labor Relations Act permits, but does not mandate, unions to negotiate as the “exclusive representatives” of all employees at a unionized company. This means that all workers must accept the union’s representation. They may not negotiate separately with their employer. Whether they like it or not, the union represents them.

Unions are trying to defend the closed-shop status quo, where even employees at a business who do not want to be represented by a union are forced to join. But the right-to-work laws just passed in Michigan prevent the unions from imposing mandatory membership fees on all workers.

The strongest argument for mandatory union fees is that these fees are primarily directed to programs that benefit workers. But Heritage investigative reporter Lachlan Markay finds that this argument doesn’t hold up either:

In fact, less than a quarter (24.1 percent) of expenditures by Michigan’s 25 largest private sector (or public/private hybrid) union locals go toward actually representing workers, according to those unions’ latest LM-2 filings (obtained via the Labor Department’s website – see spreadsheet below for a more detailed breakdown). The rest goes toward other expenditures, including benefits, political activity, and general overhead.

Do you think Michigan’s legislature was right to pass these right-to-work laws?

Comments (77)

Sally Vose - December 14, 2012

I wish every state was a right-to-work state. Michigan’s legislators and Govenor deserve medals for their determination to return some semblance of sanity and freedom to their state.

Birne - December 14, 2012

ABSOLUTELY – it does not negate union availability but it DOES protect persons from having to join and pay dues. It is a matter of personal choice!!!!

Fred - December 14, 2012

Yes! And the thuggish reaction of the unions are proof that they need to be under tight control.

An even greater threat comes from public sector unions. They should be abolished!

mike - December 14, 2012

absolutely the right thing to do. all recent major manufacturing activity has gone to right to work states. this will enable michigan to be in the running for new work.

Marilyn Shepherd - December 14, 2012

Yes, Michigan’s legislature was right to pass these right-to-work laws!!!

Bud - December 14, 2012

If the unions wish to continue to be a part of the workforce in America, then they will have to do a self-examination and understand that the rank and file must have a say in the business of the local union chapter. They must be allowed a vote on the election of officers and representatives, on expenditures and expenses and the general welfare of all union activities. Only when the membership will get back the freedom to manage their business affairs will the unions be a viable part of the work force. That will become reality when the leaders are selected by the members in a free vote. This was the basic premise of the union’s original appeal. That premise has been corrupted over and over for several decades.

Linda Lee - December 14, 2012

This is a great step for the workers of America, and the beginning of job creation for businesses of all sizes.

jerry - December 14, 2012

I support the States new law for all workers to have the right to work and the opertunity to chose who will negoitate on their behalf, which may include themselves.

Robert Heinrichs - December 14, 2012

What a Day! What a Victory!
Unions are not about what is best for the City, the State, the Country, or about what is best for the workers.[ see auto wages in the right to work states ] They are all ABOUT POWER and influence in government for their own benefit.

vyrl Pember - December 14, 2012

I am thrilled with action

Vyrl Pember

WC Partyka - December 14, 2012

As a 40 year member of IBEW I firmly believe in the “Right To Work”. If this had been implemented in my home state of Minnesota, I would have left the union 35 years ago.

Dennis Stucke - December 14, 2012

I think workers should have the right to choose. Being forced to do anything is tyrany. I have been in unions and most of the actual workers are good hardworking people and who doesn’t want to earn the maximum amount of money possible but the free market is also a factor. People making the highest wages should be the best in the country and indeed some of these folks are but not all of them and for people who don’t like how the union heads spend their dues money is a whole other issue.

Gary Hannah - December 14, 2012

I believe the Right to Work law is an excellent first step in returning control of the work environment to ALL of the workers in cooperation with management for the betterment of all the workers. The unions, at least in California, where I live, are the main force, through purchased politicians, for driving business out of our state. I suspect this is the case, nationwide, with companies choosing to go off shore. The staw is finally breaking the camel’s back.

Robert A. de Roziere Sr. - December 14, 2012

Right to Work does not eliminate right to join a union. Equality of opportunity is the goal, not equality of outcome. Labor Unions have dwindling membership and seek indentured union servants to bolster their ranks while still enjoying highly disproportionate representation in federal and state governments through a vicious cycle of reciprical political patronage. This asymmetrical influence must stop.

Bill Weyandt - December 14, 2012

I believe the legislative dicission in Michigan is right and a major step in the right direction for our country. We are a people who do not need to be led by the nose and told what to think by elitest leadership.

glynnda - December 14, 2012

I think this is a great win not only for the State of Michigan, but also the workers in the State. I am surprised however that the findings of Mr Markay have not been discovered and outed earlier by rtw supporters. In fact I think all expenditures of union dues such as amounts/percentages that go to political efforts, hiring from other areas for activist efforts, and the salaries of top union officials should be made VERY PUBLIC. This is the way we will win the day in the conservative arena.

Jon - December 14, 2012

When “rights” are mentioned every liberal gets on the wagon to defend them no matter what!
Why then is the Union Monopoly so sacred to them?
Speaks directly to the true purpose of Liberals; Control of Everything, Not Freedom!
Would working be a civil liberty? Why is the ACLU not defending Workers Rights?

D Easton - December 14, 2012

Closed shops give members very little influence in the operation of the Union. If a member tries to buck the leadership, there is usually repercussions through a hostile work environment to include isolation from conversations and ridicule. It’s their way or else because the union knows it’s got your dues whether you like it or not.

Jose Torres MD - December 14, 2012

I agree that Michigan’s legislature was right to pass the right to work laws.

paddy o - December 14, 2012

The politicians are in bed with the unions!
The Unions are in bed with the politicians!

When you get two people in bed rogether,
someone’s going to get screwed!

Worker and Taxpayer Fairness - December 14, 2012

A persons Right To Work without compulsory union membership should be guaranteed anywhere in the USA.
Public sector unions should be illegal due to the inherent conflict of interest. They pay dues which are used to contribute to and elect the very politicians that negotiate their contract . It is the taxpayer who pays for inflated wage and benefit packages. Public employees should receive no more than private sector employees doing the same work. Good HR policies encourage individuals to use their God given skills and do their best. Slackers and thugs are not rewarded .

Robert Pohl - December 14, 2012

What would be the effect of removing Union Dues as an automatic deduction from a persons pay check. Is there a law that requiers employers to deduct union dues?


R. K. Smith - December 14, 2012

Yes, every state should pass the right to work law, the unions are and have always been corrupt and serve only to benefit the organizations heads.

Elisabeth Baer - December 14, 2012

Absolutely, no one should be forced to join an organization that they do not want to be a part of–I am not so sure that the organized labor has their members interest at the forefront.

Jean Brooks - December 14, 2012

Yes,I think they were right.If the unions don’t have to represent you,if you don’t pay dues,then it’s not a closed union shop! those who don’t want the union,are not being forced to fund it. The local people who fund it see Very little of the funds!The distribution always starts at the top!

Robert Walter - December 14, 2012

Good for Michigan, let’s hope the rest of the nation follows suit!!!

Willliam H. King III - December 14, 2012

I was a member of a union for nearly 35 years and mostly it just took my dues. There is no retirement or anything else, at one time they gave a small death benifit to the family. Not sure if that still is ineffect. Sort of like social security.When you are self employed that hurts.

Patrick Guire - December 14, 2012

It seems apparent that a person should have the right to work for any employer without belonging to a union. It seems also that the employer should have the right to negotiate with non-union member employees independently from the union negotiations.

Richard - December 14, 2012

The National Labor Relations Act permits, but does not mandate, unions to negotiate as the “exclusive representatives” of all employees at a unionized company. ISN’T THE FOLLOWING CONTRADICTORY TO THE ABOVE STATEMENT? [This means that all workers must accept the union’s representation. They may not negotiate separately with their employer. Whether they like it or not, the union represents them.]

No spreadsheet and not possible to get it from the DoL without a file number or union information.

Sharilee - December 14, 2012

I live in Utah, a right-to-work state, where unemployment is barely above 5 percent. We have always enjoyed low unemployment, even in a recession climate because are conservative and don’t expect the government to take care of us. We give of our time and means to help those who need help, starting with family, then Church, and on to other charities worthy of support. Michigan was right in passing the legislation, and I hope more state follow. Other union states are losing their populations as Michigan has because people are forced to move to more conservative places to live and work. Does anyone wonder why California is in such bad financial shape? Look at union demands and exorbitant retirements for union-fed people, as well as corruption often bred by union greed.

James Cooke, Ireland, formerly of Texas - December 14, 2012

If union members examine the employment performance in RTW states versus union-mandated states, they would discover the RTW states had a 30% lower rate of unemployment.

Charles Stefan - December 14, 2012

Smartest thing they could have done!

Robert Bock - December 14, 2012

Michigan Legislature was absolutely right, every state should follow suit.

Wayne C. Reynolds - December 14, 2012

I agree with you–labor unions originally were of good intent–I think–but as time has gone on–man’s selfish nature has infringed until it no longer ‘looks’ like it was originally intended to look. I believe that even in union shops, workers in that shop should have the option to opt out of paying dues.

Jeff Thompson - December 14, 2012

As a resident of Michigan who has watched his state slide from greatness to poverty over the past 20 years, I say it’s about time the Michigan legislature and governors stopped kowtowing to the unions.

Gene - December 14, 2012

The time has come for all states within the Union to have their state legislatures vote for “right to work” for all citizens within the states. Hopefully, the remaining states who do not have “right to work” will reasses their positions and do the right thing. Hopefully, sooner rather than later.

wayne - December 14, 2012

yes, it was in the best interest of the state since the primary cause of Michigan’s employment problems is the inflated cost of labor driving out businesses.

Dale - December 14, 2012

I was born and raised in Michigan. I fled Michigan and headed to a right-to-work state in 1984 because of the State’s economic woes and hopeless left leaning policies. The passage of the right-to-work law in Michigan took me totally by surprise. It is the first glimmer of hope that I have had for the State since my departure. Kudos to the Governor and the legislature!

Jim Walling - December 14, 2012

I’m, by nature, a pessimist. So I don’t see the rest of the country following suit. At least one state is getting it right.

Paul - December 14, 2012

Yes….. YES a thousand times YES

Victress Jenkins - December 14, 2012

All states should allow this type of legislation to protect the workers who don’t wish to be unionized. My father was a member of the Steel Workers union but discovered that there was corruption lurking within. No one should be kept from joining a union either. The employer should not be holding the idea of being fired over their’ heads for joining and/or not joining a union.

Deborah McNally - December 14, 2012

yes, definitely ! Unions, like the EPA have accomplished their “goodness” early on and now have overstepped into becoming mostly a political machine for the Democrats !

Thomas Seim - December 14, 2012

I lived in Michigan for two years and finally have seen my fellow patriots stand up and be counted. Keep up the good fight untill every state is a right to work haven from the union thugs.

Donald DaCosta - December 14, 2012

The U.S. is in need of a federal Right To Work law. The pendulum has swung too far to the Left. Unions were born out of a desperate need to prevent the abuse of labor at the hands of short sighted, abusive, “profit at all cost” employers. Long hours, unsafe environments, low wages, etc. There was no such thing as employee “rights.” Enter Union representation, the power of the group acting together to achieve the predominant, employee friendly, benefit rich, work environment that exists today.

As a result, employers, especially those in competitive industries, came to realize that their employees were their most valuable asset and deserved to be treated as such. Long story but that’s the bottom line.

That attitude has become an integral part of the American work culture.

But Unions, in their zeal and reveling in the power they acquired, created another, not so beneficial, workplace attitude; the strategy of the adversarial, “us against them” that persists today. The modern Union is big business, a business that relies on threats at periodically spaced intervals, of economic turmoil as old, increasingly egregious contracts expire and in need of renewal with new demands for pay raises and benefits without regard for their impact on the business and the employers ability to profit, compete and survive in the free marketplace. It’s a manifestation of the “profit is evil” syndrome that dominates our modern culture. If you make it, we’re going to take it. Many employers surrender to egregious demands to avoid shutting their doors or the disastrous impact of prolonged strikes, the Union’s favorite weapon of extortion, the impact on profits and dividend distributions to disgruntled stockholders; the “fat cats” reaping those “undeserved” profits.

It is no surprise, makes perfect sense to all, even the Unions, who see it as their death knell and react accordingly, that businesses have no desire to establish themselves in non right to work states and every incentive to set up shop in right to work states. Michigan especially is a classic case in point.

If Unions are to survive they must adapt to the times and establish strategies intended to foster a synergistic relationship between employees and employers that benefits both; bigger profits, better wages, better benefits. They must restructure so as to provide a useful, economically beneficial service where they seek new memberships. Pitting employees against employers is a losing game for everyone, employees, employers and eventually the Unions themselves. It’s adapt to the realities of the 21st century marketplace or continue to lose membership and public support as more and more unionized enterprises go bankrupt and close their doors.

Sharon Dawson - December 14, 2012

Yes, Michigan’s legislature was right to pass the right to work laws.

Stephen - December 14, 2012

A damn good thing for the people of Michigan to have. Now the people can choose to not pay them, the thuggish unions are curbed, and the progressives/liberals/whatever they want to be called now and other crooked politicians lose a big cash cow for their elections and projects.

wayne meucci - December 14, 2012

Definitely, and if the Unions can substantiate that they add enough value to the memebers, they will join. If the Union’s can’t prove their value, why should the workers join?
The corruption of the labor movement has finally caught up with it and they’re about to outlive their usefulness.

William j Rudge III - December 14, 2012

Forcing membership in any organization is not right, especially if the organization promote policies and values whic are contray to the individuals belief.

William j Rudge III - December 14, 2012

I don’t believe anyone should have to belong to an organization that has values that are different from members and spends dues for non mission activities and personal benefits of leaders.

Janis McCoy - December 14, 2012

Fundamental to our nation is the right to pursure happiness. Why should anyone be forced to “join” anything in order to get a job and pursue one’s happiness? Right to work is a basic human right.

Robert Calabro - December 14, 2012

All states should be right to work states. Economics 101, capital investment seeks the least path of resistence. The states that have the least amount of regulations and taxes get the jobs. It is a well documented fact that right to work states economic growth is higher than states with forced unionization. The competion between states for jobs is intense as it should be. It is common knowledge that people are moving into right to work states. People always follow the jobs. This migration has caused a reduction in the tax base of the states with forced unionization. This creates more tax hardship for the people who still live there. Aprime example is my state of NY. We were the electorial prize in 1964 when we had 45 electorial votes. We are now down to 25 electorial votes. I can assure you, that the people that moved did not retire to Florida. They were taxed and regulated out of our State. Merry Christmas everyone. God Bless America. Regards Robert Calabro.

Karolee Hansen - December 14, 2012

Passing the Right to Work Law was a great step for the state of Michigan. I hope that this law will not be contested by the unions, and I hope that it will bring new businesses and industries to the people in Michigan who desperately need jobs.

John Smith - December 15, 2012

I am a strong supporter of right-to-work. No one should have to be forced to join something that they don’t believe in just to keep their job.

I would rather the union be put to rest altogether, especially when they start ganging up and beating on individuals. This actually happened to a news reporter recently, from what I heard.

Of course, the ‘DC crowd’ won’t do that anytime soon.

Michele Zabawa - December 15, 2012

I am a public school teacher in Michigan and am thrilled at the passage of this. law. I am tired of my union dues going to the NEA and MEA and the causes and candidates they support.

JJ - December 15, 2012

A first step in returning sanity to Michigan, a state overrun by flawed liberal ideals and backward thinking.

Holly Chapo - December 15, 2012

Yes, unequivocally!! Passing the law was long overdue. No state should have the kinds of laws that require union membership and/or payment of dues. The statistics clearly support the advantages to workers of right to work. Let’s hope the rest of the states follow suit.

Jeff - December 15, 2012

Face it. Like it or not, we are part of a global economy. Every time we buy something we choose whether to buy the more expensive or the comparable less expensive product. Unions claim better quality and the good of workers. Consumers aren’t seeing it – and expressing proof of that with their wallets. If a U.S. company is going to compete, it needs to do what’s best for the bottom line. Employees being required to give part of their paychecks to an entity that repeatedly goes to bat for insubordinate employees is not representing good, hard working employees. Most companies self regulate here, if you let them. Sending a huge portion of dues to “political activity” or let’s just call it what it is – the democratic party to D.C. money laundering scheme isn’t helping workers (ask Hostess). Union workers who don’t support the thuggery we are seeing over and over again, need to get your fellow union thugs under control. It makes you all look like 4-year-olds throwing a tantrum when their ridiculous demands are not met.

Kathleen Heine - December 15, 2012

Absolutely. Wyoming has been a right to work State forever
and I am glad of it. I think Michigan will benefit from this step
as well.

Dorothy Weinel - December 15, 2012

This is great step in the right direction for twenty -four
states to pass the right to work law. People should not be forced
to join a union and pay dues that they do not approve of. I hope
the reminder of the states will follow suit and look out for the
citizens. Unions should be abolished from having any power in the
public sector.

Juanita Arnold - December 15, 2012

The day is gone for the need for unions. When workplaces
needed improvement, they had a place. Now they just want to goudge
a company until it breaks, like Hostess. And the episode in
California with the “administrative staff” at the docks was
abominable. I worked for many years, raised 3 kids by myself and
never made more than $48,000/year in a professional job at a bank.
And I certainly did not have a guaranteed job for the rest of my
life. How unfair can you get?

Denny Converse - December 15, 2012

I can only admire the people who showed some backbone and
insight into something that has needed to be done in Michigan for
some time. That passage gives some hope for a movement to begin in
Illinois, however, I’m not holding my breath.

Bill Chambers - December 15, 2012

Let’s call the underlying issue what it is: Money
laundering by and on behalf of the Democrat Party and BHO.

Ann Van Brunt - December 15, 2012

Yes, Michigan should be proud of this! Please read the book
“Shadowbosses” by Mallory Factor, it answers so much about the

Al Pinkerton - December 15, 2012

The notion that any union has any right to force any employer to do anything is obnoxious. Any employer agreeing to any contract that allows picketing and work stoppage for wages should be held in contempt of….of….well, just plain held in contempt.

Douglas - December 15, 2012

Yes! Hats off to the Governor and the state legislators for
taking on the issue in a union dominated state. If it can pass in
Michigan, it can pass anywhere.

C Graham Wayne - December 16, 2012

I echo Bud (12/14/12) completely. The unions need to sell
themselves as something people would want to join voluntarily. A
recent union effort in my workplace (fortunately voted down 3:1) in
a non right to work state was a joke. Among other things they
promised the vote would be by secret ballot. Duh! The national
union is on record for supporting Obamunist card check. Saying
“Thanks Union” is like thanking your car insurance agent for
arriving promptly at the scene of your accident when he was the
drunk driver who caused the accident.

Chet Bartels - December 16, 2012

The unions members are not all thugs, but there are thugs
hired to work campaigns. I worked for a union shop 45 years ago and
the union leaders were the laziest members of the work force. We
worked on a “quota” system and the union members would play cards
for a couple hours each day once their quota was reached.

John Smith - December 16, 2012

Amazing that the Unions contribute to PlanParentHood
because of a woman’s right to choose (pro-choice) but then turn
around and deny those same women the right to choose when it comes
to union membership if they want to work. Liberalism is a mental

Alllen Burt - December 16, 2012

I commend Michigan on the enactment! Absolutely right! Hope
all states will follow suit. Any and all use of police and military
forces should be used to enforce the law if necessary. I see some
intelligence beginning to surface in government.

Andrew Colon - December 17, 2012

Michigan’s governor and legislature took a bold and courageous step in restoring the right’s of the people to chose their representatives, and for this they should be commended.

Dave Wilkens - December 17, 2012

Texas has been a RTW state as long as I can remember. Such long held right has served Texas citizens very well. Unions have outlived their usefulness. I too salute the bravery and tenacity of the people of Michigan and Wisconsin. Such actions will produce nice dividends.

John - December 17, 2012

As a member of the UAW, I support Right To Work.
Without right to work, unions have excessive control over the membership rather than a responsibility to represent them. Unions should provide a product / service that sells it’s self. With right to work, if a member / worker does not agree with the actions of their local or the international union they do not have to join or can withdraw their membership. It gives the worker a right of choice.

Arlene Williams - December 17, 2012

Absolutely! Employees should not be forced to support the causes unions typically give money by having to pay mandatory union dues.

Al Kohn - December 18, 2012

Absolutely correct in Passing Right to Work law. Why is it that when a ruling goes against a union, there are riots, violence and demonstrations. Yet when the now “stacked” NLRB passes rules that will stifle an employer’s rights, there are discussions and legal procedures followed to try and even the playing field. I blame the union leaders and their elected officials for this type of violence. Every worker should have the right to choose. The current law allows unions to negotiate for members only if they so choose. So what’s the problem?

Charles B. Stinson - December 22, 2012

I agree with Michigan’s legislature in passing these right to work laws. I Also have a problem with the Union’s using members money for campaign purposes. Not every member may not agree with the Unions candidate.

Melvin Hignight - December 20, 2014

the people have spoken by representative legislation.

curtis - June 11, 2015


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