ALEC’s Decades Of ‘Right-To-Work’ Effort Pay Off In Michigan

Failed Union Referendum

The “right-to-work” measure comes after 57% of Michigan voters rejected a union-backed ballot initiative in November, which would have made “right-to-work” laws unconstitutional.

Union membership in the state has dropped significantly since 1989, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics

A month later, the measureʼs opponents mobilized.

The Chamber of Commerce, which backed a $26 million effort to sink the ballot initiative, endorsed the “right-to-work” bill soon before it was introduced in the Legislature.

The Michigan chapter of Americans for Prosperity, a national organization funded by the conservative billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch (who are also backers of ALEC), pitched a tent on the Capitol lawn that broadcast speeches by former President Ronald Reagan.

A nonprofit group called Michigan Freedom Fund cropped up in November.

Run by an adviser to former Republican gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos of the Amway family fortune, the group bought radio and television ads supporting the bills in December.

Another supporter of “right-to-work” laws on the ALEC Commerce, Insurance, and Economic Development Task Force is a Michigan-based think tank called the Mackinac Center.

Mackinacʼs Director Michael LaFaive wrote in December that the center has been pushing “right- to-work” laws since 1990.

In 2007, Mackinac released a “model” constitutional amendment for the law, which mirrored the text of the ALEC model bill.

Opponents and proponents disagree about the economic impact of the laws.

A study by the liberal Economic Policy Institute reports that right-to-work laws push down wages for all workers in a state “by an average of $1,500 per year” and that the rate of employer- sponsored health coverage was 2.6% lower in states with the law.

If Michigan adopted a “right-to-work” law, it would lead to lower wages, less access to health insurance and weakened pension benefits, wrote University of Oregon professor Gordon Lafer in a report on the potential impact of the law in Michigan.

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