December 11, 2012

AP on Friday: Mich. Right to Work Law an Exercise in ‘Raw Power,’ With No ‘Political Niceties’

There will be plenty of time later to look at how the Associated Press and other wires more than likely fail to report the violence that took place in connection with right-to-work legislative actions in Michigan’s legislature today. For now, let’s look at the reactions of Associated Press reporters John Flesher and Jeff Karoub on Friday in an item which is no longer at the AP’s main national site.

Their dispatch’s headline (“Michigan Republicans end part of union tradition”) was from all appearances an attempt to make it seem uninteresting. The story itself didn’t describe the law involved as “right to work” until its fourth paragraph. Both before and after that, the pair, who are more than likely members of the Occupy Movement-supporting News Media Guild, got bitter (bolds are mine throughout this post):

For generations, Michigan was the ultimate labor stronghold — a state built by factory workers for whom a high school diploma and a union card were the ticket to a middle-class life.

Yet it took only hours for Republicans to tear down a key part of that tradition, the requirement that all employees in a union workplace pay dues.

The swift action was the result of a decisive governor who teamed up with a supermajority of GOP allies in the statehouse to win a prize long sought by conservatives. It also provided a window into how state governments might work in an era when they are increasingly run by a single party.

Gov. Rick Snyder, a venture capitalist and corporate executive before his successful run for governor in 2010, didn’t bother with political niceties this week after dropping his previous objection to dealing with the right-to-work issue. He announced his support Thursday at a news conference.

Within hours, the House and Senate had introduced and approved bills prohibiting what are known as “closed shops,” where workers are required to join a union or pay fees that are equivalent to union dues as a condition of employment.

No topic is touchier for organized labor, which contends such laws enable workers to enjoy benefits won by unions without supporting the costs of organizing and negotiating. Labor leaders say the ultimate intent is to deprive them of money and bargaining power.

“Whether proponents call this ‘right-to-work’ or ‘freedom-to-work,’ it’s really just ‘freedom to freeload,’” said Steve Cook, president of the Michigan Education Association.

Such displays of raw power may become more common around the nation as increasing numbers of legislatures are dominated by a single party.

Geez, I don’t remember the AP or anyone else in the establishment press describing how ObamaCare navigated its way through Congress as a “display of raw power” — and that required bribes like the “Cornhusker Kickback,” Louisiana Purchase to get through the legislative maze.

As to the “freeloader” argument, Lachlan Markay at Heritage accurately described that popular labor claim as a “myth” in a late-afternoon post today:

Right-to-work laws represent “the freedom to freeload,” conservative commentator Steven Crowder was told by a union protester outside the Michigan state capitol shortly before another protester punched him in the face.

The gripe is a common one: if workers are free to choose whether or not they wish to join a union, Big Labor claims, they can still enjoy the benefits of collective bargaining without footing the bill.

The problem with that complaint: it’s simply untrue. Under the National Labor Relations Act, unions are free to represent all employees – not just union members – at the bargaining table. But they are not required to do so.

“The National Labor Relations Act does not mandate unions exclusively represent all employees, but permits them to electively do so,” explained Heritage’s James Sherk in a Monday column. ”Under the Act, unions can also negotiate ‘members-only’ contracts that only cover dues-paying members. They do not have to represent other employees.”

Moreover, the free-rider argument implies that workers’ union dues would go at least predominately towards activities that achieve better compensation or other workplace benefits. But neither is that the case.

In fact, less than a quarter (24.1 percent) of expenditures by Michigan’s 25 largest private sector (or public/private hybrid) union locals go towards actually representing workers, according to those unions’ latest LM-2 filings (obtained via the Labor Department’s website – see spreadsheet below for a more detailed breakdown). The rest goes towards other expenditures, including benefits, political activity, and general overhead.

Markay has a table at his link showing that of the $130.8 million collected by these 25 unions, only $31.5 million goes towards representation activities.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that journalists who are more than likely union members and certainly demonstrate union-sympathetic biases would fail to report that inconvenient fact.

Cross-posted at



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