Michigan State Legislator Introduces Worker’s Choice Bill

Yesterday, a state representative from Michigan introduced novel legislation that would provide public-sector workers’ choice.

Rep. Gary Glenn (R-Midland) introduced House Bill 5829, which gives new freedom to government workers by only requiring workers who want union representation to work under a union contract and pay for it. The other workers are free to represent themselves and do not pay union dues or work under an unwanted union contract.

In a press release from the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a Michigan free-market think tank, Michigan teacher Stephen Hall shares his opinion of the new worker’s choice proposal:

“Teachers really want choices, teachers really want to have some say in what’s going on with their contract,” Hall said. “Usually you have a small group of people negotiating their contract. And they’re trying their best to represent teachers … but still you have three or four people negotiating for everyone.”

Mr. Hall is not alone, a recent survey conducted by the National Employee Freedom Week shows that 67 percent of union members support that worker-choice system.

By only requiring unions to represent workers who desire representation, worker’s choice legislation appeases unions’ top concerns with Right-to-Work laws, the purported “free rider” problem. A Right-to-Work regime frees workers from forced union dues payments but forces a union contract on everyone. Unions officials claim that forced dues are necessary because non-members still have to work under a union contract and thereby benefit from union representation. Worker’s choice eliminates that problem since non-members do not work under a union contract and therefore do not benefit from such representation.

The worker’s choice proposal would also diminish the problem of “inherited unions.” Recent analysis shows that less than 10 percent of public-sector workers voted for the union that represents them. With worker’s choice, only workers that want union representation receive it.

Mackinac Center’s Director of Labor Policy Vincent Vernuccio explains that labor unions would be wise to embrace worker’s choice legislation and that they may benefit from it as much as workers:

Union leaders may not like Worker’s Choice approach initially but it is by no means clear they would lose a great deal from it. A chief selling point of organized labor is that union representatives are good at negotiating the best possible deal for workers. If they can deliver on this promise, non-union employees won’t be non-union for long — and those who are in the union will have little incentive to opt out. However, workers shouldn't be forced to pay for a service they do not want simply to keep their jobs.

Unions, just like everyone else, should have to prove their value to customers instead of relying on government-granted privileges that force workers into their ranks. Worker’s choice gives them a chance to provide tangible benefits to the employees that want unionization and sell that experience to the rest of the workforce.