As protests against Michigan’s right-to-work laws swelled, pro-union Democrat legislator Douglas Geiss took to the state House floor – and Twitter – to promise violence. “We are going to undo 100 years of labor relations,” said Geiss. “And there will be blood. We will relive the Battle of the Overpass.”
The Battle of the Overpass was a 1937 clash between the United Auto Workers and security troops for the Ford Motor Company, in which dozens of union activists were beaten up. It has long been considered one of the worst examples of corporate-stooge union busting. Geiss is pulling the neat trick of threatening violence while casting his side as the victims. Or, if you prefer another interpretation, he’s casting the right-to-work law as an act of “violence” against unions, which justifies whatever they choose to do when they “fight back.”
Union forces have already gotten frisky, storming the tent erected by right-to-work supporters Americans for Prosperity of Michigan and tearing it down. Fortunately, no injuries from the attack were reported.
Violence and intimidation are necessary because the unions don’t have much of an argument otherwise. As Governor Rick Snyder points out, there is no connection between right-to-work laws and decreasing real income; on the contrary, “there is a 23 percent higher rate of per capital income growth in right-to-work states.” One study cited by Snyder showed that adopting right-to-work laws in 1977 would have increased Michigan’s per-capital income by $13,556 by 2008.
As for union complaints that the job-creating benefits of the new legislation have been over-sold, the Mackinac Center notes that right to work states “were responsible for 72 percent of all net household job growth across the U.S. from June 2009 through September 2012… non-farm private-sector employment grew 3.7 percent in right-to-work states, but decreased 2.8 percent in non-right-to-work states.” This is due, in part, to the greater willingness of businesses to invest in states that don’t bring the heavy hand of government down on the side of union “negotiators.”
The most sincerely debatable point raised by Big Labor is that when right-to-work laws cancel out their ability to take money from non-union workers, those workers unfairly benefit from union “services” they’re not paying for. This is known as the “free rider” problem. Its extent has been hotly debated by both sides of the right-to-work issue. Of course, it’s difficult to quantify such an indirect benefit, and tough to claim that it’s fair and reasonable to force non-union employees to pay for a “service” they did not request, and do not control. One empirical fact that can be weighed into the discussion, as put forth by the Mackinac Center, is that unions don’t spend a very large percentage of their budgets on the collective bargaining activities that are supposedly of indirect benefit to non-union employees.
For example, according to the most recent federal filings, the Michigan Education Association ??? the state???s largest labor union ??? received $122 million and spent $134 million in 2012. They averaged about $800 from each of their 152,000 members.
According to union documents, “representational activities” (money spent on bargaining contracts for members) made up only 11 percent of total spending for the union. Meanwhile, spending on ???general overhead??? (union administration and employee benefits) comprised of 61 percent of the total spending.
So MEA members who disagree with the leadership of the union are paying up to 90 percent of their dues, but the union is only spending about a tenth of the dues money representing them.
Of course, a lot of that “overhead” goes to union political contributions, over 95 percent of which go to Democrats, even though about 40 percent of union members – and even more of the non-union workers paying those compulsory “association fees” – are not Democrats.
Right-to-work enjoys 51 percent support from Michigan voters, who beat down ballot initiatives designed to write union privileges into the state constitution in the last election. The mantra of the Left since November has been “elections have consequences.” Here’s an example they seem notably less enthusiastic about respecting… to the point of leveling threats against those who did not vote their way.
Update: Looks like the reports of no injuries in the union attack on AFP’s tent did not hold up, as there has been at least one report of face-punching. Video of the destruction of the AFP tent has made its way to YouTube: