Making Michigan a Right-to-Work State
From Larry Reed's (president of Michigan's Mackinac Center for Public Policy) editorial in today's WSJ "It Takes a Recession" (subscription required):
Why is the basic truth, that unions are part of the state's economic problem, now coming to replace the notion that they are the state's salvation? A 2002 study from the Mackinac Center for Public Policy gives us a little hint. The study found that from 1970 to 2000, right-to-work states created 1.43 million manufacturing jobs. At the same time non-right-to-work states lost 2.18 million jobs. Not surprisingly, heavily unionized Michigan was near the bottom of the pile.
Michigan lost a quarter million jobs since the start of this decade. Unemployment is the highest for any state in the country. And while inflation-adjusted per capita personal incomes grew nationally by 4.2% since 2001, in Michigan they have fallen. Over the same period, real per capita GDP grew by nearly 9% nationally and declined in only one state -- Michigan. High-profile companies like the Big Three auto makers, Pfizer and Comerica are slashing workforces or moving operations out of state. Tax revenue is down and the state budget is hemorrhaging red ink.
Michigan's "economic development" efforts have obviously flopped, and for largely the same reason that a bad restaurant can't turn itself around by offering discounts or subsidies to a handful of customers. It must change the menu for everybody.
The state has tried to stop the bleeding with expensive TV ads featuring Michigan-born actor Jeff Daniels spotlighting the state's corporate welfare. But what's really dumb and getting dumber is the persistent reluctance of the administration of Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm to tackle the union issue, even as signs swell that the public is ready for a sea change. Her strategy is to sweep aside any suggestion for labor reform and lobby instead for an unpopular, job-killing tax increase and a billion-dollar hike in state spending.
Making Michigan a right-to-work state would quash with one powerful blow the nagging perception that our labor climate is too hostile and costly for business. It would provide more freedom for individual workers and a temporizing influence on union leadership.