The End of Unions?

In my column this week for Defining Ideas, I write about a collective bargaining initiative that will wreak havoc on an already weak economy in Michigan.

The hottest topic in Michigan today is not the presidential election. Rather, it is Proposal 2, “Protect Our Jobs,” which will constitutionalize collective bargaining. Michigan, long an economic basket-case, has started to turn the corner under Republican Governor Rick Snyder, who knows that the state’s fortunes won’t improve if it doubles down on a system of labor law that has proven itself to be a major failure. As the governor has argued, Proposal 2 is a step in the wrong direction. It is a partisan call to benefit unions and union members at a time when many states around the country are rightly questioning whether the special protections for union workers have gone too far.

I further discuss this–and the general decline of unions over the last few decades–over at Defining Ideas

  1. Paul A. Rahe
    C

    Richard, you give Rick Snyder too much credit. He is the master of half-measures. We in Michigan art not turning the corner — though we had a chance with both houses in the legislature and the gubernatorial chair controlled by the Republicans. Snyder may be an improvement on Granholm, but, with his half-measures, he has prepared the way for the unions to consolidate their hold on the state.

  2. zandertunz

    As a lifelong Michiganian, I have since my earliest days lamented the strident state of unions and a union mindset here.  To draw a timely parallel, it truly puts me in mind of entitlement thinking, complete with the commensurate arrogance of the entitled.  And I say this as a former member of a union, to which I belonged as a requisite for working in a union-organized manufacturing facility.  I was ashamed of the small mindedness and the shallow thinking of the union leaders who riled up the union members with sufficient rhetoric and posturing that my company was actually put out of business – due to the inability of the management to meet the unnecessary and unreasonable demands of the union.  To this day I remember the vote against a reasonable counter offer and the sinking sense that my fellow members were cutting off our noses to spite our faces.  I truly fear passage of this constitutional change would go a long way toward repeating that phenomenon in a time when the job market, esp. here in Michigan,  is in such a debilitated state.

  3. Mr. Bildo

    Let us not forget Proposal 4, which is nothing but a massive power grab by the SEIU to force privatization out of home health care.

    I was born and raised in this state. My parents were members of the IBEW, most of my relatives were UAW members. The actual number of union households is irrelevant. It’s the fact that the union mentality is almost universal here. 

    Our Republican Governor has been nothing but weak-kneed on challenging unions. Walker, he is not.

    I have no doubt both measures will pass.

  4. paulebe

    As a Michigan resident I despair at the havoc wreaked by the union culture.  Michigan, especially SE Michigan is ruled, by a mindset that divides everyone into two camps.  Labor vs. management.  If affects everything about their lives.  EVERYTHING! 

    It saddens me when I realize that this will all have to come crashing down in economic ruin before and the last adherants die-off before things change.  The union culture cannot purge the mindset that management is out to get them and that the only way “they” can be held in check is to continually ask for more and more and more regardless of the fundamental economic truth that says they’re just not worth that, and frankly, never were.

    I pray there are enough sane people in this state to vote both these measures down due to the likely wave effect of this election cycle, however that is only a hope.  It is not confidence.

  5. Devereaux

    Ah, Prof Epstein! Back on game!

    Not being a resident of Michigan, I have only second hand knowledge of the state of affairs there. However, I have noted that our current WH resident illegally bypassed all bankruptcy precedent and handed the UAW a huge “lottery” win, while trashing things like bond holders (who were often retirees counting on those investments). Detroit, likewise, has been doing the California approach of redistributing all – and has become a ghost town as a result. 

    The fact that Rick Snyder is a “business man” and so has shrunk from the courageous acts of other governors (as in Ohio and Wisconsin) because it is a more “business-like” approach to problem solving makes me a touch worried about a President Romney. Business men accept the current restrictions and attempt to work within them; leaders find what is wrong with the current situations and change them. Like Chamberlin in 38, Snyder had the opportunity to change things – and didn’t. Michigan will pay a price for that.

  6. Schrodinger

    This Freep article from 10/26 indicates Prop 2 will be defeated.

    http://www.freep.com/article/20121026/NEWS15/121026094/michigan-proposal-2-collective-bargaining

    So chin up!

  7. Duane Oyen

    Look at the bright side.  If this stuff passes, and Michigan goes completely into the tank, we will have Exhibit A-2 (after California) on what happens when you try to repeal the laws of economics.   There will be zero investment in Michigan by business, every venture will move out, etc.

    And it will be clear what is responsible.

  8. Paul A. Rahe
    C
    Duane Oyen: Look at the bright side.  If this stuff passes, and Michigan goes completely into the tank, we will have Exhibit A-2 (after California) on what happens when you try to repeal the laws of economics.   There will be zero investment in Michigan by business, every venture will move out, etc.

    And it will be clear what is responsible. · 11 minutes ago

    For once, I feel like a Californian. There is no bright side . . . if you live in Michigan.

  9. Mr. Bildo
    Palaeologus

    Mr. Bildo:

    I have no doubt both measures will pass.

    Care to make a friendly wager on that?

    I give neither much chance. 

    The polls seem to be in your favor. I would be very happy to be wrong on this. 

    Here’s the thing I don’t get and I had this discussion with my son on the way to school this morning–how can Prop 2 be in the hole so bad, yet this state is so firmly blue? Who is voting on Tuesday, shooting down a pro-union measure, yet choosing Obama? Or even more poignant, Stabenow?

  10. Palaeologus
    Mr. Bildo:

    I have no doubt both measures will pass.

    Care to make a friendly wager on that?

    I give neither much chance.

  11. Palaeologus
    Mr. Bildo:

    …how can Prop 2 be in the hole so bad, yet this state is so firmly blue? Who is voting on Tuesday, shooting down a pro-union measure, yet choosing Obama? Or even more poignant, Stabenow?

    Prop 2 is so far out there the Detroit Free Press came out against it. In fact, The Freep (The Freep!) is taking Snyder’s exact line on the initiatives: Yes on 1 and no on the rest.

    There really is something to the squishy, bi-partisan coalition building stuff. I understand that it can seem like surrender or a conspiracy by both major parties to grow government. Sometimes that is exactly what happens. But occasionally it is about marginalizing the opposition. Snyder’s rep as a “reasonable centrist” can be useful from a salesmanship standpoint.

    Props 2 3 and 4 are way outside the comfort zone of virtually everyone except true believer Progs. They overreached when they tried to recall Snyder for nothing, and are doing it again. A more limited initiative might have passed.

    Stabenow… ugh. She’ll run ahead of Obama, pretending to be a centrist, barely bothering to attack Pete, consequently seeming to be above the pettiness… depressing.

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