Lawrence Reed Column
Another teachers union exposed
by Lawrence Reed
A week ago Michigan joined Georgia and 22 other states as a place where no worker can be forced to join or pay dues to a labor union to get a job or keep one.
After decades of unions forcing up labor costs, pricing workers out their jobs and hurting Michigan’s reputation as a friendly place to do business, the state finally endorsed freedom of choice in labor representation. A Right-to-Work (RTW) law passed in December took effect last Thursday.
One of the arguments for RTW was — and still is for the remaining states that don’t yet have it — that allowing workers to say “No thanks” would make the unions more responsible and accountable to those they claim to represent. It would put the focus where it should be — on serving workers, not just sucking up their dues money. The behavior of union leaders as they scrambled to feather their own nests before the law took effect was a site to behold, and proof that the law was needed.
The law exempted contracts that were in place before March 28. It only affects new contracts that are negotiated in the future. So guess what? The unions did all they could to create, renew or extend contracts in order to lock in dues and fees before March 28. They did more than simply try to extend current contracts. In many cases, they created new, stand-alone union “security agreements” with durations up to 10 years, meaning they wanted to skirt the law and force workers to cough up the cash for another decade.
In the Detroit suburb of Taylor, Michigan, the teachers union is trying to put through a 10 percent pay cut for its own teachers and, at the same time, an arrangement to keep taking their dues money for the next 10 years. You read it right. Ten years.
Three teachers in the Taylor district have come forward to challenge this rotten deal and will be represented in court by the Mackinac Center, of which I am proud to say I served as president for 21 years before moving to Georgia. The same teachers union local these three belong to, by the way, wasted more than $125,000 of their members’ money last year supporting a failed ballot measure to prevent the state from ever adopting a Right-to-Work law.
While the Taylor teachers are facing a 10 percent pay cut and the prospect of paying dues for the next 10 years to a union they don’t like, their union’s president is doing just fine. He got a whopping 20 percent pay hike recently.
Organized labor in compulsory union states looks a lot more like a racket than it does anything else these days. That’s a big reason RTW passed in Michigan and a big reason it will likely pass in other states in coming years.
(Lawrence W. Reed, a resident of Newnan, is president of the Foundation for Economic Education in Irvington, NY and Atlanta.)