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Stateside: Right-to-work legislation takes effect on March 27

Several of the protestors were retired UAW workers.
Lindsey Smith
Michigan Radio
Several of the protestors were retired UAW workers.

The following is a summary of a previously recorded interview. To hear the complete segment, click the audio above.

On March 27, Michigan will become the 24th state to adopt right-to-work legislation.

Roland Zullo of the Institute for Research on Labor, Employment and Economy at the University of Michigan and Vincent Vernuccio of The Mackinac Center for Public Policy spoke with Cyndy today about the legislation.

“There has been a decline in union membership across the country as a whole since the 1980’s,” said Zullo.

“What may be surprising is where the decline took place. The non-right-to-work states drastically lost membership but what is surprising is that in right-to-work states, union membership actually grew.…While Michigan lost over 40,000 union members last year not being a right-to-work state, in the near future that may actually start to change when unions become more accountable for their members,” said Vernuccio.

According to Zullo, right-to-work is not intended to increase unionization.

“Right-to-work wasn’t meant to ever grow unions. It is true that some states in the South saw growth in unionization over the last year. But, all those states began with a very low percentage of unionization. We also saw increase in unionization from California, which is not a right-to-work state,” said Zullo.

“Right-to-work is intended to weaken unions. There’s really not much evidence that right-to-work makes unions more responsive to members. What it does do is reduces the finances unions have to engage in all kinds of other important activities,” he continued.

Vernuccio noted what he thought could be signs of progress for the Midwest.

“If Toyota or other automakers open plants in Indiana or Michigan, that will show that right-to-work is working...” said Vernuccio.

“We’ve seen an increase in auto jobs in the past couple years in part because the UAW and the three major auto firms in the state pulled together and came up with a plan to restructure and bring work back. One of the reasons why the quality of the product coming out of Detroit has improved is because they’re doing less outsourcing. This of course has nothing to do with right-to-work,” said Zullo.

“I’d also like to point out that it was also the billions of dollars from the Federal Government given to them in the bailout that allowed the automakers to restructure,” said Vernuccio.

The guests continued their right-to-work discussion.

“Union growth and decline is closely linked to the political environment. If rules of society allow workers to form unions, generally, they do,” said Zullo.

“Unions helped build this country, but their business model is old. They need to put the individual first, they need to stop railing against merit pay, not letting good workers succeed, forcing workers to accept a contract if they don’t want to. We need a new start for labor’s game plan…” said Vernuccio.

For more of the interview, please listen to the above audio.

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