News Column

Mich. Business Groups Quietly Welcome 'Right-to-work' Legislation

Dec. 7, 2012

Brent Snavely

Michigan business groups and corporate leaders welcomed Gov. Rick Snyder's decision to introduce right-to-work legislation Thursday.

But that support was muted as thousands protested the legislation at the Capitol.

Right-to-work legislation makes it illegal to require financial support of a union as a condition of employment, allowing workers to join a union if they wish and ending the closed union shop in the workplace.

"We support this legislation because it is good public policy that will protect all employees from being forced to join a union and pay dues against their will," said Jim Holcomb, senior vice president for the Michigan Chamber.

Ada, Mich.-based Amway, which is led by former GOP gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos, said the legislation will improve the business climate in Michigan and will help the state recruit new businesses.

"We know our state's economic growth will come from creating conditions that help new ventures succeed -- and encourage successful companies to expand -- here in Michigan," the company said in a statement.

However, the Detroit Regional Chamber said Thursday it would continue to remain neutral on the issue because it is divisive, said spokesman Jim Martinez.

General Motors, Ford and Chrysler also remained neutral Thursday.

About 120,000 hourly workers and some salaried employees at the Detroit Three are represented by the UAW.

Ford issued a statement that said, "We are focused on working with all our partners, including the UAW."

Art Schwartz, president of Labor and Economics Associates in Ann Arbor, said right-to-work legislation will have little impact now or in the future for the Detroit Three. Michigan is just one state in which they do business. Each company runs factories in states with or without right-to-work laws.

Schwartz, a former GM negotiator, said the automaker's union membership at its Arlington, Texas, plant is about the same as at its factories in Michigan.

"Texas is the classic right-to-work state," Schwartz said. "The impact is going to be on unions trying to organize companies."

Lower-paid younger UAW workers are unlikely to reject the union just because Michigan may become a right-to-work state, Schwartz said.

Entry-level workers were the only UAW employees to win wage increases in the four-year agreements the union negotiated with the Detroit Three last year.



Source: (c)2012 the Detroit Free Press Distributed by MCT Information Services