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Published on December 10th, 2012

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Why Urban Cities Like Detroit Must Accept Right-to-Work

When I left Detroit, Michigan I knew I was headed towards a state where job growth was constantly expanding. I took a 36 hour bus ride to Houston, Texas where I felt like I would move to the next phase of my life.

I did not make a mistake leaving Detroit. I had grown sick and tired of the debate and foolishness of the unions that were always obstructing progress in the Great Lake State. And when I look at Detroit, I see a city that has died already. I’m just waiting for Swanson to seal the deal in terms of the city.

However, Detroit may be resurrected because the State of Michigan is on the verge of becoming the 24th state in the country to become Right-To-Work. While unions and so-called civil rights leaders are protesting against the bill these are the same exact people who fail to realize that the time for unions are in the past. I will give the unions credit, they helped build the “middle-class” during an industrial age of economics in the United States. However, in the 21st century, we live in the technology age. Unions, in my opinion, have become political thugs in terms of obstructing necessary laws and policies that will help and enhance the current trend of business today. Business is global and move at the speed of a click of a button thanks to the Internet. So we have to do things differently.

Right-to-work means that unions can’t require an employee be fired for declining to pay union dues or agency fees, while maintaining a union’s ability to collectively bargain. Private-sector, inflation-adjusted employee compensation in right-to-work states has grown by 12.0 percent between 2001-2011, according to data taken from the Bureau of Economic Analysis and Bureau of Labor Statistics. That compares with just 3.0 percent over the same period in forced-unionization states.

I support right-to-work because I see how it works here in Texas. I have a joke I tell my fellow Houstonians here…you get fired today and get hired tomorrow. This is very true. The job market here is growing and finding work is not damn near impossible like it is in many Rust Belt cities. Of course, you have some Black Americans who feel that right-to-work laws will “turn back the clock” in terms of the “middle-class.” Some go as far as saying we will see slavery again in the South in terms of economic cheap labor.

In 2009, 71 percent of households in right-to-work states owned their homes, versus 69 percent across the USA, and 68 percent in mandatory-unionism states.

People do not understand that states with right-to-work laws tend strongly to have other pro-growth policies. But right-to-work laws themselves play a very important role in fostering a good climate, both for enacting other pro-growth policies in the first place and for maintaining them in the face of strong opposition from Big Labor.

Going back to my experiences here in Houston, there is a Wal-Mart on damn near every corner here in the city. The same with Target. Houston does not have a Rite-Aid so CVS runs the show here in terms of drugs stores. H-E-B grosses $25 billion annually here in Texas. Again, people are working and Houston’s unemployment rate dropped sharply to 6.3 percent. Again, why would anyone be against right-to-work when families are working and moving in the right direction? The Texas economy has added 272,400 private sector jobs this year (85,000 jobs added in the City of Houston alone).

For my fellow colleagues who will disagree with me on this issue let me share this with you. If Houston was an independent nation, it would rank as the world’s 30th largest economy. The third quarter 2010 ACCRA Cost of Living Index shows that Houston’s overall after-taxes living costs are 9% below the nationwide average, largely due to housing costs that are 21% below the average. Houston is home to the Texas Medical Center, the largest medical center in the world, with a local economic impact of $10 billion. More than 52,000 people work within its facilities, which encompass 21 million square feet. Altogether 4.8 million patients visit them each year.

Also, The Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown MSA’s Gross Area Product (GAP) in 2006 was $325.5 billion, slightly larger than Austria’s, Poland’s or Saudi Arabia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Houston ranks second in employment growth rate and fourth in nominal employment growth among the 10 most populous metro areas in the U.S. The Port of Houston ranks first in the United States in international waterborne tonnage handled and second in total cargo tonnage handled. It is the tenth largest port in the world.

The University of Houston System’s annual impact on the Houston-area’s economy equates to that of a major corporation: $1.1 billion in new funds attracted annually to the Houston area, $3.13 billion in total economic benefit, and 24,000 local jobs generated. Houston is home to more than 10,700 manufacturing establishments.

By the way, between 2000 and 2011, right-to-work states have seen an increase of 11.3 percent in the number of residents between the ages of 25-34, according to the Bureau of the Census. Non-right-to-work states, over that same period of time, have seen an increase of only 0.6 percent. Texas is no different.

States with right-to-work laws dominate the “Top States for Business,” as determined by CNBC. For 2012, nine out of the top 10 best states for business are right-to-work states. By contrast, Michigan is currently 33.

And some of the boogeyman politics I am hearing out of Michigan is sickening. Listen people, nothing would change in your workplace with a right-to-work law, the union still negotiates employee contracts on behalf of all employees and represents them if they have grievances. Also, collective bargaining agreements would remain in effect and unchanged. Depending on the effective date of a right-to-work law, you may gain the legal right to cease paying union dues immediately, or that may take effect once your current agreement runs out. Either way the rest of the contract will remain in effect.

Detroiters do not fully understand the right-to-work law because financial illiteracy is a serious problem in the city. Most rely on Mildred Gaddis and other radio personalities, tabloids and paranoid union leaders to feed them mis-information about the need for right-to-work. Union leaders are saying people in right-to-work states make less money. Not true. Right-to-work laws has never affected compensation for workers. Over the long term, incomes rise faster in right-to-work states, and cost of living tends to be lower as well, meaning your ability to buy the things you need and want is likely to be greater in a right-to-work state.The reason why the unions have an issue with right-to-work is because they will lose money and power.

According to Professor Richard Vedder’s Economic Impact Study on Michigan, from 1977 to 2011, per-capital income in right-to-work states grew by 57.4 percent. In contrast non-right-to-work states grew by only 50.9 percent. Unfortunately, Michigan’s growth was a paltry 23.8 percent.

As far as Black Americans fighting against right-to-work let me say it’s more of the old guard of leadership that are fighting against this not the young people. Most young Black Americans are looking to get into entrepreneurship so right-to-work will benefit them more than what the old guard of leadership is discussing. Businesses in right-to-work states tend to be more productive — without shortchanging workers — and this gives them a competitive advantage over unionized states.

Plus, workers actually have higher real pay in right-to-work states when they efile their taxes every year. Incomes are growing faster in right-to-work states too. In fact, according to the US Census most right-to-work states had higher per capita disposable incomes than Michigan in 2010.

Not to mention how right-to-work states like Texas are a proven job creator. For decades unemployment rates have consistently been lower in right-to-work states. Between 2002 and 2010 the average right-to-work state increased payrolls by 3 percent, compared to a loss of 3 percent for non-right-to-work states.

So for any Black American to be against right-to-work when the Black community’s unemployment rate remains in double digits is beyond me.

For real, let’s tell the truth. The main reason why unions are also against right-to-work laws is because it makes the unions more accountable to their members. Simply put, when a union member becomes convinced that a union is not acting in the member’s interest, that member can choose to resign his or her membership and refuse to pay dues or fees. But right-to-work laws won’t eliminate the ability of workers to organize in Michigan; unions will still have a voice if it passes. But union leaders will have to earn the trust of their members. In fact, right-to-work will not do anything to collective bargaining besides taking away unions’ ability to get workers fired who do not pay them. That’s as it should be: These reforms return labor to its best traditions of voluntarism and responsiveness to worker needs. By making unions consistently earn member support, right-to-work laws realign the interests of all workers and their leadership.

Right-to-work is not a magic bullet, but it will be a sign to businesses that organized labor will not dictate the agenda in the Great Lakes State. Michigan will remain competitive with the states around it and union leaders will for the first time be accountable to the free will of their members.

*****

About the Author: Akindele Akinyemi is one of the nation’s most respected educators, coaches and leading authority on educational options through organization, leadership, ethics, management, and change in educational business Akinyemi is a hard-hitting Nigerian-American conservative educator, blogger, motiavtional speaker, researcher and political commentator. He is well known for his hardline views on education and his “blunt” way of expression. He sits on the boards of diretors for the Detroit Black Alliance for Educational Options and Attucks Inc, and the co-founder of the Emerging Leaders Think Tank, which is geared towards building educational and economic institutions through urban policy.

https://www.facebook.com/akindele.akinyemi.73

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