George Will comments on the economic impact of the Michigan Right to Work Law
Rick Snyder, who is hardly a human cactus, warned Michigan’s labor leaders. The state’s mild-mannered Republican governor, currently in his first term in his first public office, has rarely been accused of being, or praised for being, a fire-breathing conservative.
When unions put on Michigan’s November ballot two measures that would have entrenched collective bargaining rights in the state constitution, Snyder told them they were picking a fight they might regret.
Both measures lost resoundingly in the state with the fifth highest rate of unionization (17.5 percent, down from 28.4 percent in 1985) and, not coincidentally, the sixth highest unemployment rate (9.1 percent).
Nationwide, resentment of union power has been accumulating like steam in a boiler. The Wall Street Journal reports that in the last four years “nearly every state … has enacted some form of pension changes” clawing back unsustainable benefits promised to unionized government employees.
By becoming the 24th right-to-work state, Michigan is belatedly becoming serious about what Daniel Boorstin, the late historian and Librarian of Congress, called entrepreneurial federalism. This is the wholesome competition among states to emulate others’ best practices, and to avoid and exploit others’ follies.
If you seek a monument to Michigan’s unions, look, if you can without wincing, at Detroit, where the amount of vacant land is approaching the size of Paris.
Democrats who soon will celebrate two of their party’s saints at Jefferson-Jackson Day dinners should jettison either their opposition to right-to-work laws or their reverence for Jefferson, who said: “To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.”