By Stephen Moore
Since the early days of Henry Ford, Michigan was the proud symbol of America’s industrial might.
But then, starting in the 1970s, things went south — in part because of the might of the unions that ran the state’s political machine. That’s when Michigan transitioned into the sad symbol of closed factories: the American “Rust Belt.” Flint, Michigan, became a ghost town.
From the 1970s to the early 2000s, Detroit lost nearly half its population. Whole neighborhoods were bulldozed, and homes were selling for less than $10,000 as poor and minority residents fled the area’s crime, lousy schools, high unemployment and political corruption.
If you traveled to Florida or Arizona, you saw lots of Michigan license plates.
But then, Michigan began to reform itself with tax cuts and leaner and cleaner government. One big reform was Michigan became a “right to work” state. The state went through an amazing economic renaissance. According to the American Legislative Exchange Council’s “Rich States, Poor States” report (which I co-wrote), few states rose on economic competitiveness faster than the home of the Wolverines. Prosperity returned.
Now the shine is off the engine. The Democrats took back control of the politics in the state, and the first thing they did was repeal “right to work” — a big wet kiss to the union bosses for all those campaign contributions.
“Right to work” is the law of the land in 26 states. These laws do not prohibit unions. There are many unions in these states. “Right to work” simply means that workers cannot be compelled to join a union.
Democrats are falsely advertising this as a restoration of workers’ rights. That’s a bald-faced lie. Now, to keep your job in Michigan, you must join the union, and you must pay dues to the union bosses. The United Auto Workers union has been plagued with corruption, including massive pay packages to the union leaders.
This bill will not only take away the right to choose from Michigan workers, but it will also do great damage to the state’s economy. States that have “right to work” laws create jobs at almost twice the pace of states with forced union policies.
Many businesses won’t even consider locating a new factory or blue-collar operation in a forced union state. The auto jobs in America will now accelerate their move to the Southern states, which happen to be “right to work.”
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI), a stooge of the unions, will sign the bill into law. And Michigan is about to see a return to the Rust Belt era.
Here is what’s really telling. The Communist Party of America put out a press release celebrating the demise of “right to work” in Michigan. They note correctly that Michigan is now the first state in more than half a century to turn back the clock and force union chains on workers. Most states have been moving in the opposite direction.
What is sadly ironic about this endorsement is that throughout the 20th century, the unions in America were staunchly anti-communist. It was Lech Walesa, the Polish union organizer, who stood up to the evil communist government that tried to outlaw unions. He and President Ronald Reagan and the AFL-CIO helped defeat the evil empire.
Now the communists in America cheer on the unions as they sow the seeds of their own demise — as well as the demise of a once-mighty state.
Stephen Moore is a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation and a co-founder of the Committee to Unleash Prosperity. His latest book is “Govzilla: How the Relentless Growth of Government Is Devouring Our Economy.”
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The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of Citizens Journal.
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Gov. Whitmer. If you ever needed to cast a face to represent what “left wing fascism” looks like, she would be your gal.