The following was submitted by guest blogger John Armelagos, RN, MNA Secretary.
July 26, 2010
An open letter to Mike Bouchard
While reviewing the websites of the gubernatorial candidates, I was dismayed to discover Mr. Bouchard’s support for Right to Work (RTW.)
RTW has nothing to do with the right of a person seeking and accepting gainful employment. Rather, RTW laws prohibit a labor union and an employer from negotiating union security clauses. Union security clauses are contract provisions that regulate the collection of union dues or service fees.
Also found in his website, Mr. Bouchard touts a philosophy of “getting big government out of the way Michigan Families,” yet RTW precisely does the opposite. Right-to-work injects government intrusion into the collective bargaining process by prohibiting employers and worker representatives from voluntarily agreeing to union security provisions.
Mr. Bouchard’s pronounces, “Someone shouldn’t be forced to join a union to get a job.” Let’s be clear. Let’s be honest. Even now without RTW, no worker in the State of Michigan must join a union in order to gain employment. Union security clauses only prevent non-members from enjoying all the benefits and rewards of union representation for free.
Would any corporation allow consumers to benefit from its products or services without expecting a fair exchange of compensation?
For Registered Nurses, our contract is a means for ensuring that we can provide the best quality nursing care in the safest environment by negotiating provisions that protect our patients as well as ourselves. Our union helps protect its members and the patients we care for in the 58 local bargaining units throughout Michigan which also benefits every RN and patient in the state.
Our members pay dues and are active in our union so that we have a strong voice for Nursing and patient rights. Moreover, our union is a democratic, membership-led organization.
Further, Mr. Bouchard cites that he is a strong supporter of the 2nd Amendment, has tough policies for dealing with lawbreakers, and believes in the U.S. Constitution. The right to form unions and to bargain collectively in found in that same Constitution’s 1st Amendment’s the freedom of association. Unfortunately, labor laws that are supposed to protect workers’ right to organize are weakly enforced. Officers of the law cannot pick and chose what to enforce and what not so enforce.
Mr. Bouchard speaks of getting Michigan back to work. Yes, this must happen, but there is no correlation of RTW and economic development. We only need to look to North Carolina, a RTW state, for evidence that RTW will not cure Michigan’s manufacturing ills. From 1994-2005, North Carolina lost over one-quarter of a million factory jobs or about 31 percent of its manufacturing base, while Michigan lost about one in five factory jobs. MSU professor Richard Block found, “there’s no evidence that being a right-to-work state has an effect on economic growth.”
RTW does have an economic effect on the well being of working families. RTW laws decrease wages for everyone, union and non-union alike. Working families average about 6 to 8 percent less in annual income in RTW states. Race to the bottom schemes like RTW cannot meet the needs of working families in Michigan.
Mr. Bouchard states that he is committed to ensuring Michigan’s students get the very best education possible, but RTW hurts education. RTW states spend an average of $1,680 less annually in elementary and secondary education with corresponding lower, student ACT scores.
I am not sure what may have compelled Mr. Bouchard to promote such a harmful proposition. Less than two years ago, working families in Colorado overwhelming rejected a RTW ballot proposal. Please understand that the Michigan Nurses Association, progressive allies, and working families will mobilize to defeat Mr. Bouchard and any candidate that supports RTW.
Let me conclude with a quote from Reverend Martin Luther King. “…we must guard against being fooled by false slogans, as ‘right-to-work.’ It provides no ‘rights’ and no ‘works.’ Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining. … We demand this fraud be stopped.”
John Armelagos, RN
Secretary, Michigan Nurses Association