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Jewish Labor Committee Condemns Anti-Union Action by Michigan Government

December 12, 2012: New York, NY - Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Jewish Labor Committee, issued the following statement in regard to recent political developments in Michigan:

“The middle class in the United States has been shrinking, and that phenomenon has paralleled a shrinking in the labor movement. The Republicans in the Michigan legislature and the state's Governor added to this weakening of the rights of working men and women by passing a law that will establish the state as a so-called `right-to-work' state, a misnomer that really means a `right to work for less.' The Republicans and business leaders clamor that workers should not be forced to join a union if they do not want to. But this has been the law; any worker can opt out of union membership, but until now, they would be required to pay an agency fee if they benefit from the better wages, benefits and other advantages secured by the union where they work. Instead, they will now be freeloaders, taking advantage of benefits without paying, and weakening the very union that negotiated those benefits for them.

“Weakening unions leads to lower wages. A recent study by the University of Notre Dame found that average wages and benefits for non-farm workers in so-called `right to work' states was $57,732, compared to $65,567 in states where those who opt out of membership have to pay an agency fee. States with these anti-dues laws have higher rates of poverty. Not surprisingly, what does go up are profits.

“The Jewish Labor Committee strongly condemns such actions that increase income inequality and weakens the voice of working men and women as expressed through their unions. The unions of previous generations won the conditions through which millions of people working in the United States were able to secure decent lives for themselves and their families, and better lives for their children. It is unconscionable for today’s – and tomorrow’s – workers to be denied the right to a strong, democratic and unfettered trade union movement.”