October 28, 2012

A UNION SHOWDOWN IN MICHIGAN:

As election season heads into the home stretch, all eyes are on the presidential race. But while Obama and Romney are hogging the spotlight, another very important fight over labor unions is brewing in Michigan. We reported last month that Michigan’s unions scored an important victory when a measure enshrining collective-bargaining rights and outlawing right-to-work legislation was allowed on the ballot. . . .

If the bill passes, this would indeed be a major victory for a union movement that has seen precious few of them in the past few years. Midwestern states like Wisconsin, Ohio and Michigan were once the heart of America’s labor movement, but many of these states have been leading the charge against collective bargaining since 2010.

But the unions’ hope that a victory in Michigan will breathe new life into their movement may be misplaced. Michigan’s large manufacturing and union history make it perhaps the most favorable environment for union-friendly legislation in the country. If unions can barely eke out a victory there, it does not bode well for their chances elsewhere. And with state and local finances in dismal shape in union-heavy blue states, desperate politicians are unlikely to have much sympathy for union demands as they try to put their house in order.

With the national climate turning against them, the battle in Michigan is looking more like a last-ditch stand than a turning point for public-sector unions.

It won’t do much for Michigan’s economy if it passes.

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