WASHINGTON, DC– While in Washington, D.C. this past weekend (February 23rd, 2013), I had the honor of interviewing Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. He also serves as President of the National Right to Work Committee, a 2.6 million member public policy organization.
Michigan recently became the 24th Right to Work State. Mark weighed in on Michigan’s new status as a Right to Work State and also answered questions many have about Right to Work.
1. Stacy: Mark, you are an expert on Right to Work Laws — where does Right to Work fit in?
2. Stacy: Who is covered by the Right to Work law?
Mark: Michigan’s Right to Work laws apply to most private-sector and public-sector workers, but it does not apply to employees of airlines, railroads or those working on property subject to exclusive federal jurisdiction, nor policemen and firefighters.
3. Stacy: When is the effective date of the Michigan Right to Work law?
Mark: The Right to Work law takes effect 91 days after the close of the Michigan legislature’s session, i.e., on or about March 27, 2013.
4. Stacy: Does this mean all union members can now stop paying union dues?
Mark: No, the law does not affect union monopoly bargaining agreements entered into prior to that date. Individuals subject to pre-existing contracts are not protected by the Right to Work law until that contract expires, is renewed or is extended. Thus, if on or about March 27, 2013, you are not subject to a union contract that requires membership or payment of union dues as a condition of employment, you are immediately protected by Michigan’s Right to Work law. However, if you aresubject to such a union contract at that time, then you will not enjoy the protections of the Right to Work law until that contract expires, is renewed or is extended. Once you are protected by the Right to Work law, no subsequent contract can require you to be a member or pay any dues or fees to the union.
In order to fully exercise your rights to not pay union dues and fees, you must refrain or resign from union membership. Union members will still pay union dues.
5. Stacy: What are the effects of Right to Work laws on unions?
Mark: Right to Work laws make unions more voluntary. Samuel Gompers, the founder of the American Federation of Labor, the precursor to today’s AFL-CIO declared at the 1924 AFL convention: “No lasting gain has ever come from compulsion. If we seek to force, we but tear apart that which, united, is invincible.” Union bosses must now provide a service workers want, thus making the union stronger and more accountable to the rank-and-file.
6. Stacy: If members stop paying union dues, will they no longer be covered by the contracts?
Mark: The union, by claiming to represent all the workers (i.e. monopoly bargaining) has a duty to “represent” you fairly. However, the union can exclude nonmembers from its “internal” activities, such as participating in union elections, union meetings, and contract ratification votes. Nonmember workers are not subject to union rules, including those against working during a strike.
7. Stacy: Nonmember employees once were required to pay an ‘agency fee’; will that be eliminated with the Right to Work law?
Mark: Agency fee requirements are eliminated for nonmember workers.
8. Stacy: Is it possible for an employee to gain the legal right to cease paying union dues immediately? Or do employees have to wait for the effective date of the Right to Work law?
Mark: All employees not under Right to Work protections can immediately exercise their legal rights to refrain from formal union membership, and to refrain from paying that portion of the dues spent on union politics and members-only events. This can be accomplished by sending a letter to the union informing it that you wish to be a nonmember and object to paying dues for union politics and members-only events. That will reduce the amount of compulsory union fees that you must pay.
9. Stacy: What effect does a Right to Work law have on a state’s standard of living?
Mark: If you were to link wages to Right to Work, it would only be fair to adjust for the cost of living in each state. Generally speaking, workers have more disposable income and higher purchasing power in Right to Work states when you take into account the cost of living. When 2011 disposable personal income (personal income minus taxes) data, as reported by the U.S. Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), are adjusted for differences in living costs, the results show that nine of the 12 states with the highest real disposable incomes per capita are Right to Work states. Ten of the 13 bottom-ranking states lack Right to Work laws. Overall, the cost of living-adjusted disposable income per capita for Right to Work states in 2011 was more than $36,800, or roughly $2,200 higher than the average for forced-unionism states.
Also, the national employment recovery would have been far worse were it not for the outsized contribution of the 22 states that have had Right to Work laws on the books since June 2009. Their aggregate household employment grew by 1.86 million, or 3.4 percent. The 10 states with the highest percentage gains in household employment since the recession’s end (Florida, Idaho, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia) are geographically, culturally, and economically diverse. But they all have one thing in common: Right to Work. Over the same period, nine of the 12 states with the worst job losses lack Right to Work laws. Combined, Right to Work states (excluding Indiana and Michigan) are responsible for 72 percent of all net household job growth across the U.S. from June 2009 through September 2012, even though these 22 states represent roughly 40 percent of the U.S. population.
The strong positive correlation between Right to Work status and state GDP is also apparent. In fact, nine of the 11 highest-ranking states for 2001-2011 GDP growth are Right to Work states. Meanwhile, 12 of the 14 lowest-ranking states lack Right to Work laws.
I can give you facts and figures all day, but Right to Work is really about freedom. The economic benefits are just icing on the cake.
10. Stacy: Since Michigan is not the first state to implement Right to Work legislation, are you aware of an increase in litigation in other states because of their implementation?
Mark: A vast majority of the National Right to Work Foundation’s litigation actually occurs in forced unionism states, where union bosses abuse their special government-granted powers to compel workers to pay dues or fees as a condition of employment.
(Footnote: I would like to thank Mark for taking the time to share his knowledge and experience regarding Right to Work Legislation!)