There's been plenty of speculation about the prospects for, and motivation behind, Right Work legislation in Michigan. Why a big puswh on unionization rules since those rates have been dropping for years?
And it can't pass unnoticed that the Right to Work effort does not have the heads of Ford, Chrysler and General Motors standing at its forefront. If major private sector employers of union labor want Right to Work, their enthusiasm is muted, or they prefer to work solely through intermediaries (Michigan Chamber of Commerce, Michigan Manufacturers Association).
Could this all be about public sector unionism -- an area where unionization rates are far higher, but still declining?
A Republican Legislature and Republican governor are well-positioned to redefine the terms on public sector unions -- groups that are key elements of Democratic Party organizing and fundraising.
The good folks at the Center for Local, Urban and State Policy in Ann Arbor passed along some information this week that might lend strength to a political motivation for RTW:
"The growing battle over Right to Work vs. constitutional protection for labor rights in Michigan threatens what seemed to be a somewhat moderate path of public sector reform here, at least compared to the near outright warfare under way in some sister states. As far as public sector unions at the local level in Michigan, it is worthwhile highlighting a recent MPPS report that found:
"Only 27 percent of general purpose local governments in Michigan have public sector employee unions.
"While there are some concerns about the fiscal and operational impacts of unions, these concerns are relatively minor amongMichigan’s local government leaders. Perhaps most importantly, only 5 percent of local government leaders say their relations with their unions are poor. Meanwhile, 60 percent of local government leaders say relations with their unions are good or excellent."
So, private-sector unionization is declining, and does not appear to be a huge issue for major employers in Michigan. (Though it may be THE ISSUE for some big firms.)
We know the ranks of state employees are shrinking. So, fewer unionized workers there.
Only about 1 in 4 local governments have employee unions. And the management teams in local governments, judging by the CLOSUP survey, aren't particularly chapped with how labor relations are going at the local level. In this scenario, are legislators hearing routinely from their city and township halls about "doing something" about unions?
Is this an economic cause without a constituency -- or simply just another political maneuver in the hyper-partisan atmosphere of the state capital?