Right to Work = Right to Choose

On December 11, 2012, Michigan became the 24th state to pass right-to-work legislation. On the surface, I support the legislation on the grounds that I believe less government is good and it gives power back to the individual.

However, I also see the benefit of collective bargaining. For example, in circumstances where employees feel that they are being poorly treated and feel powerless to effect a change, unions provide employees an opportunity to band together and present a united front when bargaining for wages, benefits, etc.

As I see it, Michigan’s recently adopted right-to-work legislation is not about fattening the profits of business owners and taking economic benefits away from hard-working employees. Rather, it gives employees who work at a company that has been unionized the right to decide whether they themselves wish to join the union and pay union dues, or not.

Thus, this legislation becomes a wake-up cause to unions, holding them more accountable for the value that they bring to their members. If unions remain relevant, I believe that employees will, and should, continue to support their cause.

It is true that average salaries tend to be slightly lower in right to work states than in states that do not have right to work legislation. On the other hand, those states with right-to-work laws tend to have higher employment as well. So, while the individual may take a hit to his/her wallet, the region as a whole is likely to be better off.

If an individual makes less money but their spouse, children and/or neighbors have a better chance in finding work, is that a trade-off worth accepting?

Your questions or comments are welcome.

Christopher J. Kress, CFA