A controversial poster has been put on display in the Marquette Arts and Culture Center. This supposed piece of art portrays four Republican governors, including Gov. Snyder of Michigan, as iron-fisted fascists, and features the Nazi Eagle symbol with the swastika replaced by the GOP elephant. While the poster is a blatant appeal to hatred rather than open discussion, this post is designed to critique its actual content, specifically the claim that Snyder and his policies are “anti-worker.”
It is true that Gov. Snyder is pursuing policies that would reduce the influence of labor unions in Michigan. However, are such actions actually harmful to workers? Michigan’s unions today are machines with massive bureaucracies. Research by Paul Kersey, director of labor policy at the Mackinac Center, showed that the Michigan Education Association spent 58.7 percent of its budget on administration and overhead, while the figure was 30.8 percent for United Auto Workers (“Union Spending in Michigan: A Review of Union Financial Disclosure Reports”). Such spending calls the value of unions to their workers into question. True, the value of mass representation might be worth the dues which workers pay, but this is far from guaranteed.
A strong free-market solution is to allow each worker to decide for themselves whether to join a union or not. By logical extension, if workers have the right to associate, they should also have the right not to associate. Compulsory unionization, in which qualified workers are legally prohibited from holding a position unless they join a union, flies in the face of economic freedom, as well as smart business. Any responsible manager should hire the best-qualified individual for a position, and when unions attempt to prevent this, they reward mediocrity. This can be seen in teachers unions when teachers’ hours and pay scales are tightly defined with no regard to merit. Teachers are left with little incentive to excel, and students suffer (along with the best teachers, who do merit more pay).
By fighting against compulsory unionization, especially in the public sector, Snyder and his fellow governors are far from being “anti-worker.” Allowing workers the freedom to manage their own paychecks, rather than pay dues to potentially wasteful unions, is pro-worker. In the long run, right-to-work policies make the unions more efficient and helpful to workers: unions have much more incentive to serve their members well when said members have the freedom to leave if they wish.