By J. Chris Sanders, General Counsel, United Food & Commercial Workers Union Local 227
Michigan voters will have the opportunity to defeat so-called “right-to-work”in November, and ensure that Michigan workers will have constitutional rights on the job far above current federal law.
What is "right-to-work"? In short, big trouble for working people, a law that, as Martin Luther King said, guarantees neither rights nor work.
A little background: Right-to-work is a provision in the National Labor Relations Act. The trouble comes from the NLRA's weak constitutional underpinning. The NLRA is founded upon the U.S. Constitution's Commerce Clause, affording the federal government the power to enact statutes and take other actions to regulate commerce. Unlike many countries, U.S. labor rights to organize and bargain collectively are not deemed fundamental. In other countries, these rights are founded upon those of freedom of speech, association, and assembly, but not in the U.S. Here, it's just about commerce, meaning business.
Right-to-work is all about business. The federal NLRA permits states to enact laws that keep unions weak and wages low. It requires labor unions, which are membership organizations, to bargain for and represent employees who choose not to be members for free, thereby weakening those unions and driving down wages.