Right to Work: Oh the Outrage!

Rod Meloni discusses Lansing legislatures' battle over right to work

DETROIT – Political junkies love to see their side really "stick it" to the other.

Yet, sadly, this is where we see the worst in our legislators either here in Michigan or in Washington D.C. [It is also the largest problem we face in this country in my estimation.]

Political gamesmanship, while making points with the base, does little to help with actual governance. This creates a total disconnect. There is a wide chasm between lawmakers with an agenda aimed at narrow interest and power and the rest of us just trying to make ends meet in a grievously injured economy too slow to recover. The best example of this is the right to work drama playing out in Lansing.

Republicans on the Education Appropriations Sub-committee are angry at local education unions on the secondary and college level. It seems the have the temerity to have figured out a way around the new right to work legislation the Republicans rammed through the legislature last December. They are outraged these unions were able to negotiate long term extensions of their current contracts with the schools before right to work goes into effect at the end of the month. This renders right to work inoperative to their employees.

The Republican outrage is such that they are now threatening to withhold extra funding as punishment. Seventy-five million dollars would be redistributed between other Michigan universities and withheld from Wayne State University and the University of Michigan system in Ann Arbor, Flint and Dearborn. In the "gotcha" world of the House Chamber this makes sense. Of course, to the parents who are trying to figure out how to eat and send a child to college simultaneously these days, it is back to the budget battle once again.

Economics 101 teaches us the university simply passes the increased cost to the customer. These are Republicans, mind you, who implemented right to work as a way to reduce costs on union members and hold the unions more accountable to their customers. This penalty on the universities is a wrongheaded power play resulting in painful, unintended consequences legislators around the world have become so well known for not taking into account.

But let's be real here, there is plenty of blame to go around. I sat in the House last December and watched the marches outside, angry protestors claiming democracy was being torn from their hands by the opposition party that moved on their rights simply because they had the votes. I watched Democratic legislators predicting the end of life as we know it, screaming into microphones decrying the horror of right to work. They were playing "victim" to the cameras, making certain the union faithful saw them fighting this "gross injustice."

All the while, of course, ignoring the real truth behind the original legislation right to work unspooled. The old law made paying your union dues [which also fund union political causes] a requirement of employment. How does this make an employee free? What is rarely said about the old system is that it required an employee to pay a third party [the union] AND STAY CURRENT WITH THOSE PAYMENTS in order to keep their job with their employer. I am curious what is so free about paying someone else for your ability to work somewhere?

Normally one's work relationship is with his or her employer only. But this so called Democratic freedom was anything but. Yes, it can be argued a union offers benefits like higher pay and vacations, but the union is a separate legal entity outside of the employer, how do they get the power to decide whether I get to keep my job if I fall behind on my union dues? It was the way it was done for about 70 years, that does not make it right!

Oh the outrage! Everyone's political ox is being gored! But what about the people who are left to pay the bills and try and live life under the messes these power hungry pols, utterly unconcerned with the yokes they apply to people's backs, with wrongheaded, politically inspired laws? These legislators wield power and yet do not govern beyond reaching into the taxpayer's pocket yet again. Oh the outrage indeed; for the poor powerless schmoes like you and me! What do you say, let's everyone calm down and think of more ways of making the taxpayer's life a little easier instead of all this political grandstanding?

Just a thought!

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