Right-to-work legislation was introduced in Michigan this past Thursday. Public and private sector workers will soon have the freedom to choose whether or not they wish to pay union dues in an organized workplace. Beforehand, it was mandatory.
Labour unions in neighbouring Ontario are feeling threatened. After all, ending this involuntary expropriation of workers would undermine their business model. In response to the announcement, CAW President Ken Lewenza remarked, “Any time government intervenes and reduces the standards of living for workers, it has an impact in competing states and competing provinces. I’m disappointed, of course.”
This, of course, is union doublespeak.
Consider an example of the state of affairs prior to the introduction of right-to-work legislation. A man is hired at a local factory. This factory is unionized. On his first day of work, a union rep grabs for his wallet. “Pay up, or take a hike,” he says. “You’ve got no choice. It’s the law.”
This is coercion. It is the solicitation of membership using badges and guns. It is the actual intervention.
It is true that right-to-work legislation will reduce the standard of living of unionized workers. Previously, these workers enjoyed the special privileges associated with a government-erected barrier to competition. On the other hand, it will raise the standard of living of those workers, previously excluded, who are now willing and able to work for less.
Firms that embrace these non-unionized workers will have an opportunity to out-compete unionized firms on price. Lower prices benefit consumers. It raises their standard of living.
This is a good thing.