Michigan could be the first state in nearly 60 years to repeal a “Right to Work” (RTW) law.
This represents a win for Big Labor but a loss for workers. Contrary to popular assumption, RTW laws are not anti-union. Instead, RTW laws state that a worker cannot be compelled to belong to a union or pay union dues as a condition of employment. RTW gives workers a choice to opt-in or out of union membership. Repealing RTW is far from a win for workers’ rights. In fact, it’s the opposite.
While proponents of the repeal offered “little rationale beyond aiding unions,” according to The Wall Street Journal’s Editorial Board, RTW supporters have evidence on their side.
Twenty-seven states have RTW laws. These states are better off economically and have seen faster income, workforce, and population growth. According to the Mackinac Center, “the Michigan labor force was down 350,657 over the nine years prior to RTW, a 7.0% decline. It was up 90,648 people in nine years after, 1.9% increase.” A 2021 Harvard study, referenced by the Mackinac Center, found a 28% higher share of manufacturing employment in RTW states than in neighboring, non-RTW states. They also found that wages and compensation were not lower on average in RTW states as some have argued.
Moreover, voters approve of RTW laws. In Michigan, voters favor the state’s RTW law by a 2-1 margin. In North Carolina, nearly two-thirds of voters support an amendment to ensure the “right of persons to work shall not be denied or abridged because of membership or non-membership in a labor organization.”
North Carolina celebrated its 75th anniversary of becoming a RTW state in 2022. While the law may seem safe in the Tar Heel State, the events in Michigan show pro-union forces hope to dismantle these laws across the nation. Of the 27 states that have RTW laws, only nine of those enshrine the law in their constitution. Lawmakers in North Carolina should put RTW in our state constitution. Otherwise, we could be one election away from becoming like Michigan.