Forget online crowd sourcing, the labor unions in Michigan have the advantage of actual crowds of workers to help back their causes.
While it makes for dramatic news coverage, the workers clogging Michigan's capitol couldn't stop the tide pushing out unions state-by-state. Even made-for-media quotes
by union bosses—among them, “When right-wing groups have gone after the labor movement, it's like kicking a hornet's nest and workers just don't back down” or “Maybe it will awaken a sleeping giant”—were not enough to stop the anti-union trend.
The signing by Michigan's governor this week of the so-called right-to-work bill is a huge blow to unions struggling to maintain membership and political clout. The law, similar to ones in 22 other states, basically gives workers the choice of whether or not they want to pay union dues.
For companies whose workers are covered by union contracts, it means there may be more wiggle room in negotiations, given the news in Michigan, the birthplace of modern day unions. It is not, however, a mandate to run roughshod over unions.
Having covered union disputes over the past two decades, I’ve learned that unions are formidable foes, and will continue to be. Despite declining membership, the U.S. Department of Labor reports that unions cover about 12 percent of workers.
Case in point, at least some are saying
that unions killed Hostess Brands and the beloved Twinkies rather than accept cuts to its 18,500 members working for the company. It’s the mindset that if one union falls, it might set the precedent that others are vulnerable even if the cuts make sense during a recession when everyone else is tightening the belt as revenues shrink.
With the news in Michigan, expect a renewed campaign by unions to make stands across the country as contracts are up for renewal. They’ve always been dogged, and will be even more so now.