Mr. Snyder’s embrace of the law, after sidestepping many of the hot-button issues embraced by other Republican governors, has sparked considerable debate and criticism in the state.
The Detroit Free Press called out the governor for what it described as an “about-face” on his assertions that the right-to-work bill was not on his agenda.
“Snyder has long acknowledged that steamrolling right-to-work legislation through the legislature would have enduring negative consequences for productive collaboration between workers and employees. His decision to embrace such legislation now destroys, in an eyeblink, the trusting relationship he and his business allies have struggled to establish,” said an editorial in the newspaper on Sunday.
“It also yokes a governor who once aspired to be seen as a new kind of Republican with the most ideological, backward-looking elements of that party — the very people whose exclusionary vision of the country’s future was rejected by voters in last month’s election.”
But many in the Michigan business community, including the state Chamber of Commerce, say Mr. Snyder’s move is in line with the independent streak he has shown in a productive two-year period of restoring the state’s fiscal health.
“We think it will help the business climate here,” said Jim Holcomb, senior vice president of business advocacy and general counsel at the Michigan Chamber. “It’s pro-worker, pro-Michigan. It’s going to put out that sign that says Michigan is moving forward.”
He added, “If you look at other states that have this, they have faster growth in jobs, in net migration, higher [gross domestic product] — all the economic factors turned up when you got freedom of work. Michigan has now taken the bold step they did to move ahead, and we are confronting the hard truth that we need to change in this state.”
Charles Owens, state director for the Michigan chapter of the National Federal of Independent Business, said a right-to-work law changes the image of the state as a place to do business. “I think that it’s going to move our state quickly to the top tier of states in the competition for new business investment and jobs,” he said, noting a 2009 survey that found that about 78 percent of his members supported the idea.
He calls Statehouse protesters, who at one point last week tried to rush the floor of the Senate to halt debate, “violent hooligans” who are out of touch with the future.
“They are not winning the hearts and minds of the public by their behavior at the Capitol. They are stuck in the 1930s, and this is the 21st century,” he said. “Those unions that come to grip with that will always have a place in the economy with their members. Those who don’t should be worried.”
Impact on autos
If the law does pass, it is unlikely to have an immediate impact on the state’s marquee business, auto manufacturing.
Kristin Dziczek, director of the Labor and Industry Group at the Center for Automotive Research at the University of Michigan, said it likely would be several years for the right-to-work laws to affect the automotive sector in Michigan, because the bills being considered exempt labor agreements in place for automakers and supply-chain companies for several years.
“It’s not like everybody is going to quit the union tomorrow when they are suddenly able to do so,” she said. “Many of these companies, including the [Big Three automakers], operate in right-to-work states already, in places like Indiana, Kansas [and] Texas and they still have a majority of the workforce as union members.”
She expects myriad challenges in court in addition to battles at the ballot box to change a right-to-work law. For that reason, she said, “we’re not reliably a right-to-work state yet until all of the challenges are worked through.”