As a child, I remember studying the birth of unions. Employees often had virtually no bargaining power. They were at the mercy of abusive employers. Unions were fought, until ultimately, they gained the ability to deliver superior conditions for workers.
Yet, no group of humans is intrinsically good or evil. And - so it is with unions and management. The former is not some angelic institution; the latter not comprised of ogres.
Today, in many respects, the tables have turned with unions and management. It is the former that too often makes demands beyond reason - not the least of which is that all workers must join a union, whether they wish to do so or not.
Finally, the tide has turned. Just as some legislation was passed to protect unions years ago - now laws are being passed to protect workers from the coercion of unions.
Labor unions commanded greater public affection back when they relied more on the power of persuasion than on the persuasion of power. In a 1957 Gallup Poll, 75 percent of Americans said they approved of unions. Today union approval stands at just 52 percent, while a plurality of Americans says that unions should have less influence, not more. Michigan may be America's fifth-most unionized state, but even there most residents want little to do with organized labor. Union members account for just 17.5 percent of Michigan's workforce.
It isn't hard to understand the appeal of right-to-work laws: Employees would rather choose for themselves whether to join a union, just as they choose for themselves whether to participate in their company's 401(k) plan or dental coverage or United Way campaign. Unions claim that forcing unwilling members to kick back part of each paycheck to a labor organization is the only way to prevent "free riders" – otherwise employees could enjoy all the benefits of a union contract without paying dues to support the union. But coercing workers to pay for representation they don't want and can't refuse is not a benefit. It's extortion.
To witness the growth a right-to-work environment makes possible, Michigan legislators need gaze no farther than neighboring Indiana, which banned compulsory unionism early in 2012. Since January, the Hoosier State has added 43,300 jobs. Michigan has lost 4,200.
But the economic gains are secondary. The essential issue is liberty. Every American worker should have the right to join a labor union. And also the right not to.
Liberals often rail about the right to choose. Why is it so difficult for some of them to recognize that we ought to have the right to choose in many facets of our lives?