By Carl Horowitz, National Legal and Policy Center
The increasing overlap of labor and political activism is an insidious form of public corruption in this country. It enables union officials to deemphasize their role of representing workers at the bargaining table in favor of advocating policies to socialize the economy and fattening their bank accounts. This tendency was heavily felt in 2012, a presidential election year. Union leaders recognized the need to re-elect their ally and benefactor, President Barack Obama, over someone a wealthy Republican with a strong business background; i.e., someone they could despise without reservation. They got what they wanted, and in the process, further built their political infrastructure. Yet union leaders also experienced reversals of fortune in several states – most of all, Michigan – where they had been used to getting their way.
The passage by the Michigan legislature this past December of a pair of Right to Work laws – one each covering the private and the public sector – has to rank as one of the most audacious moves in the history of American labor politics. Aggressive unionism, long a major factor behind the state’s high unemployment rates and high budget deficits, led Republican Governor Rick Snyder to believe that such legislation was necessary. As such, unions no longer can negotiate a “security clause” into a collective bargaining agreement requiring an employer to fire employees refusing to pay dues or agency fees. Michigan thus became the nation’s 24th state with such legislation on the books. The move followed in the immediate wake of the rejection by state voters in November, by a 57-43 percent margin, of a union-driven initiative, Proposal 2, to provide almost unlimited opportunities for unions to file court challenges against legislation they find objectionable. Union activists, displeased by the results, took a cue from their Wisconsin neighbors, and assembled outside the State Capitol in Lansing for a mass protest; a couple thousand demonstrators illegally occupied the interior.