Across U.S., labor freedom grows

Greg McNeilly

Earlier this month, Michigan families and Michigan workers observed Labor Day amidst a dramatically changing labor — and public opinion — landscape.

In the run-up to the yearly celebration of the American worker, Gallup released its annual poll gauging American voters’ opinions of labor unions and workers’ rights. The results painted a vivid picture of a nation becoming disillusioned with union boss politics and a people willing to embrace and advance the rights of individual workers like never before.

The poll found than an astonishing 82 percent of Americans believe no worker should be “required to join any private organization, like a labor union, against his or her will.”

And in results that testify even louder to the advance of freedom, 71 percent of voters said they don’t just support freedom-to-work — they would actually vote to enact it if it were on the ballot.

According to Gallup, support for unions even in the broadest, most friendly terms comes in at “the low end of Gallup’s nearly 80-year trend” of asking questions about labor unions.

Still, Big Labor and its political allies on the left embrace policies that make it impossible for workers to walk away from their unions — in exchange for campaign cash funded by membership dues — skimmed from workers whose right to walk away from the union the politicians have restricted.

The New York Times reported earlier this year that organized labor expects to spend “at least” $300 million backing liberal candidates in 2014, after spending the same amount in 2012.

And yet the last two years have seen states like Michigan embrace pro-worker policies and judges from local administrative law offices to the United States Supreme Court side with workers.

Three key rulings in the last year speak volumes about the expanded rights finally being given to American workers.

In June, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Harris v. Quinn that home health care workers across the country cannot be forced to join a union against their will.

The court soon followed up that decision by striking down a series of illegal recess appointments made by the president to the National Labor Relations Board, removing a group of anti-worker members from the regulatory body responsible for overseeing labor unions.

And just this month in Michigan, an administrative law judge ruled against the Michigan Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, issuing a decision that recommends the Michigan Employment Relations Commission put a stop to the union’s policy that restricts members from exercising their right to leave the union 11 months out of the year.

Michigan workers have been fleeing their unions since they were given the right under pro-worker reforms enacted two years ago this December.

According to the MEA, one of the worst offenders when it comes to bullying members and spending members’ dues money on partisan political causes, roughly 5,000 of the 60,000 members who were eligible to leave the union — nearly 10 percent — did so last month. This is an operating loss of $10 million per election cycle for the MEA, whose members are clearly telling them to focus more on membership services and less on politics.

The recent ruling by the administrative law judge will almost certainly cause that number to rise in the months to come.

The MEA has thrown everything short of the kitchen sink at Michigan teachers who prefer not to send a portion of their paychecks to the union’s political bank accounts. They’ve gone to court (and lost), sent creditors after teachers and threatened their credit ratings, and have waged a continuous and dishonest misinformation campaign designed to keep teachers frightened and ill informed.

None of it is working. Big Labor leaders and their allies in the halls of power have been waging a war on Michigan workers for decades, but staggering new poll numbers, paired with major court, legislative and workplace victories for workers, make it clear that it is a war that workers are finally winning.

Greg McNeilly is president of the Michigan Freedom Fund.