Rick Snyder Is Dead Wrong on Right To Work

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‎”Where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost.”

This quote was uttered not by some left-wing union leader, but by one of the idols of the conservative movement, Ronald Reagan. This fundamental freedom, so eloquently defended by Reagan, is under savage attack.

The State of Michigan today fast-tracked Right To Work legislation through the State House and Senate. The bills spent zero time in committee, and Governor Rick Snyder announced his support after months of claiming that Right To Work was “not on the agenda” because it was far too divisive. This act of deceit and cowardice will have a negative impact on the state and its people.

Snyder claims that this legislation is necessary because it will boost Michigan’s economy. Unfortunately the facts do not back that up. Of the 10 states with the highest per-capita income in 2010, only one was a Right To Work state. Of the 10 states with the lowest per-capita income in 2010, seven were Right To Work states. If Snyder’s goal is to help reinvigorate the economy, the numbers say that this is not the way to do it.

Education unions have also been a favorite target of Right To Work proponents. They argue that teachers’ unions are solely about salary and benefits, and their greed is what is sinking the economy. This could not be further from the truth. I wrote a post a year and a half ago explaining just a fraction of what collective bargaining means to teachers. Evaluations, class size, working conditions, working hours, curriculum, etc. All of these things are at stake in a bargaining session. By working to neuter unions, you are taking decisions about the future of our children away from those who passionately and expertly work to shape that future.

A strong teachers’ union helps education. Look no further than the EdWeek state education report cards. Just three of the top ten states in the rankings are Right To Work. By treating education professionals with respect and allowing them a good deal of input on the educational environment, you tend to create a more successful education system. A teacher satisfied at work, who doesn’t have to worry about money or benefits, will tend to be more effective than a stressed-out teacher who isn’t being compensated like a professional.

If the state report cards aren’t enough evidence for you, then examine the Finnish education system. Finland’s schools are outstanding, ranking near the top internationally. This is in no small part thanks to strong unions and a culture who respects educators rather than attacks them. It’s a novel concept, really, treating the person you entrust your child’s education to with a modicum of decency.

This educator has grown weary of the constant attacks on my profession coming from the right wing of US politics. We are passionate, we are caring, and we are qualified. It’s about damn time that we started being treated as such.

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