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May 2023

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Michigan Is Just the Start

Michigan repealing its so-called right-to-work law is one of the greatest victories for working people in decades.

The deceptively named "right to work" has always hidden a toolkit of ways to reduce the power of unions and jeopardize the livelihoods of millions of workers.

For those of us in the labor movement, its greatest sin is that it erodes our collective power by letting some people steal the food out of the mouths of others, to benefit from the work a union does while not contributing to that effort.

It encourages habits of slyness, lying, and stabbing your brother and sister in the back. That lack of character gets baked into our culture and keeps all of us poorer, lonelier and too familiar with the taste of defeat.

It is good for the soul of America that Michigan ended that hateful law.

Now it's beyond time for the rest of the states that welcomed these laws in the last decade to follow suit.

That's you, Kentucky, Wisconsin, West Virginia and Indiana.

Because even beyond the immoral habits it builds, right-to-work fails to deliver even the smallest of promises its supporters make.

Did Michiganders experience a massive expansion of economic prosperity once right-to-work was passed a decade ago? That's what was promised.

Could anyone walk from one factory to the next and take their pick of jobs as they could in my hometown of Mansfield, Ohio, when I was a boy and unions were strong?

Did a greater share of profits go to the people who made those profits possible?

Once unions were harmed by right-to-work, as they hoped we would be, did safety improve? Did benefits? Did anything get better for you or me?

Enough is enough.

Michigan is the first to repeal but won't be the last. We will do it the hard way, state by state, trench by trench.

But it would all be a lot faster if the House and the Senate send the PRO Act to the president for his signature. Among a host of other benefits for working people, it would hammer a stake into the heart of right-to-work once and for all.

And while they're at it, Congress should get to work removing the speed bumps that are holding back America's energy future.

First, can we cut miles of useless red tape that slows permitting for new transmission lines, unleashing gigawatts of planned clean generation in the process that simply need the reliable promise of a connection to the grid?

And instead of wringing their hands about a worker shortage, Congress has two hammers that would break the dam. First, it could update the nation's apprenticeship laws for the first time in nearly a century, and second, it could keep the existing workforce employed in carbon generating by offering it support while utilities retool and build new facilities.

You will hear much more about all these political battles in the months and years ahead at our new home for the IBEW's political priorities:

I am extraordinarily proud of what is contained in those pages. It is a blueprint of specific, tested, effective policy ideas and the strategies that will make them possible.

I urge everyone to read up and then speak out.

Michigan is just the start.


Also: Noble: Our Work Through Your Lens Read Noble's Column

Kenneth W. Cooper

Kenneth W. Cooper
International President