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Commentary by Kevin D. Korenthal
| Wednesday, Dec 19, 2012

kevinkorenthal_1212Michigan used to be one of the heaviest unionized manufacturing states in the country. In the intervening years since it boasted 26 percent union membership (1998), jobs have left the state faster than the number of union households has declined. In fact, Michigan has the auspicious title of the leading bleeder of manufacturing jobs during the 2008-2009 recession.

In the same period, Michigan’s unionization rate has remained comparatively consistent (19.6 percent in 2008 and 18.3 percent in 2011), a rate of decline which mirrors the rest of the country. There is a strong case to be made that it is the loss of manufacturing jobs that is leading the small decline in union households.

Michigan, the 23rd state to enact Right-To-Work legislation, is now at the center of a debate that has been waiting to happen for a generation. What is Labor’s role in our economy post-worker’s rights? After having secured work day/week, wage, benefit and safety laws that have benefitted millions not just in America but around the world, Big Labor has found itself the focus of voter revenge. Sentiment is moving away from support of restrictive workplace policies, expensive pensions and other regulations championed by Big Labor that have caused America to become uncompetitive in the global economy and an albatross around the neck of the U.S. taxpayer.

Apparently, years of falling revenues in Michigan’s banner unionized city, Detroit, has taken its toll on the citizens of the entire state. After 50 years of almost uncontested Democrat rule, the state now has enough Republicans elected to state office to hold a vote on and successfully execute a Right-To-Work Law.

It’s quite an accomplishment – on Big Labor’s part – that they have been able to turn the hub of American manufacturing prowess into what appears in many parts of the former “Motor City” to be a ghost town. But what’s even more surprising than what they did to Detroit is how reality-free their arguments in favor of keeping labor in power have been. Big Labor wants you to think that all they’ve really tried to do is raise workplace standards and wages. What they’ve actually accomplished is to enact, rules, regulations, and sundry other bureaucracy which has in turn limited economic growth, made America and Americans uncompetitive in the global workforce, and helped build unsustainable levels of spending so ingrained into our government that it’s likely the nation will go over the “fiscal cliff” as a result.

Clearly, the voters of Michigan, at least a small plurality of them, have recognized what Big Labor and their allies in the Democrat Party have done to their once bustling state. According to seasonally adjusted government-provided numbers, Michigan’s unemployment rate stands at 9.1 percent. These numbers, as we know, do not include folks who no longer qualify for unemployment benefits or who took part-time work when what they really require is full-time employment. The real unemployment rate in Michigan is closer to 12 percent, down from a 2010 high of 14 percent. But the city of Detroit’s real unemployment rate has reportedly gone as high as 50 percent and has not lessened much as the rest of the state managed a small rebound in 2011.

The problem is that the rules and regulations championed by Big Labor have caused investment in the state to dry up. Consequently, the American automotive hub moved out of Detroit and into cities in states with Right-To-Work laws. It’s just more economical for companies that need labor to go elsewhere – if not inside the U.S. then overseas, where high demand for cheap goods in the U.S. can be manufactured at a cost that allows companies to maintain a decent profit margin. So Michigan’s move appears to be a step toward attracting manufacturing investment back to Detroit.

So what’s big Labor’s response? We don’t need your stinking jobs. According to Big Labor (and here is a link to a video where they admit as much) jobs not covered under collective bargaining agreements or “living wage” laws are BAD JOBS. Well if the measure of Big Labor’s success is keeping “bad jobs” out of Detroit, their efforts have been wildly successful.

But don’t blame a union business manager for this “success”. They are likely to punch you in the face, tear down your display tent or threaten to follow your family to church. The sheer irony of all of the workers who took the day off of work (really showing we should value their contribution) to protest the pending legislation in Dearborn is completely lost on union business managers. When asked how the state’s economy came to lead the country’s economic decline, they usually become very aggravated and begin either chanting stupid anti-Free Market slogans or actually become violent and unruly as was seen this past week. These thuggish temper tantrums are not an American solution to anything and that’s why Michigan is now a Right-To-Work state.

 

Kevin D. Korenthal is the President and CEO of KORE Communications, and a 30-year resident of Canyon Country.

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