The Saline Post caught up with State Rep. Rick Olson, R-York Twp. to ask about the big news coming out of Lansing.
Tran Longmoore: I can see where this is good for business, but how does this benefit Michigan workers, particularly those who enjoy the benefit/protection of being represented by workers?
Rick Olson: Right to Work is about Freedom of Choice for the workers and ensuring workers can exercise their right of freedom of association:
TL: Is this something union members were clamoring for?
RO: Union members were asking for this right, especially those who are not affiliated with the Democratic Party.
(Back to the question about business)
RO: The biggest impact for business in Michigan isn’t really for any existing business. You can’t say it will impact any single business. But it sends a message to businesses that aren’t here that Michigan is open for business.
You take this along with the elimination of the Michigan business tax and changes to unemployment compensation. It’s all part of a mosaic that says Michigan is open for business.
Will it provide jobs? I can’t prove that with statistics. Many statistics out there about Right-to-Work states are misleading because there are so many conditions to consider in each state, that you can’t isolate Right-to-Work as a factor.
TL: When Gov. Snyder was in Saline, he said that Michigan's reforms required sacrifice. When do you believe the sacrifice ends for Michigan workers, and what's the payoff for people who work for a living?
RO: There is no sacrifice here for workers.
TL: Unions will be weaker and have less leverage in negotiations.
RO: Right to Work does not impact collective bargaining. Right to Work may affect how much political power the unions have. When we took office, there were a lot of unemployed people in the state. One thing we’ve focused on is creating a better business environment. We’ve done a lot. And the picture is improving.
TL: How do you answer the criticism that this should not have been rushed through a lame duck session?
RO: This time of a legislative session is conducive to rapid movement. Also, I don’t see how committee testimony and floor debate was going to change anything. People are hardened into their positions. People who are attacking the process should consider we’ve done this twice in a two year session. It was used dozens of times by previous governments.
TL: Does you want to take up Personal Property Tax before leaving office? Why or why not? Are you committed to replacing the PPT revenue to local government with a new revenue stream? Why or why not?
RO: Personal Property tax is a major piece of legislation that might be done yet in the next three days. There were specific concerns I had that have been taken care of. It’s to the point now that I’m prepared to vote for it. There is still some uncertainty about how the replacement tax will come into play and I’m operating on faith that it will. We need to have faith in the process. There is no intent to hurt municipalities. Nobody wants the personal property tax, but a mechanism for getting rid of it is horribly complicated. When we eliminated the corporate tax we had to come back and make a number of cleanups. As much as you plan, things happen that you can’t anticipate. Over the next year, I hope the legislature will take care of replacing the Personal Property Tax. It’s one of those things that businesses look at when deciding where to operate and it makes us less competitive with neighbors like Indiana.
TL: But isn’t there more to business than just being the cheapest? Can’t someone always do it cheaper?
RO: We do need to do more to increase the talent pool in Michigan. In Washtenaw County, thanks to the University of Michigan and the great hospital, we have perhaps the top talent pool in the state. But we need to do more. I’ve toured four prisons looking for ways to cut our corrections spending so that we can transfer money to education. There are things we can do in this area, such as shorter sentences and making parole easier, but these are hot button issues that might be best answered outside the legislature, perhaps by a sentencing guideline commission. It’s going to b difficult, politically, if the Attorney General is on a “tough on crime” kick
Rep. Ouimet's Views
The Saline Post asked Rep. Mark Ouimet the same questions: His office sent the following press release.
Michigan workers will have the freedom to earn a living without being compelled to join a union under historic legislation approved today by the Michigan House, state Rep. Mark Ouimet announced.
Ouimet voted in favor of Senate Bill 116 and House Bill 4003, which allow public and private workers in Michigan to seek employment without being forced to pay union dues. The legislation would make paying union dues optional for workers, while still giving unions the ability to collectively bargain.
“All Michigan workers deserve the freedom to decide whether to join a union, and not be subjected to dues or fees if they decide against joining," said Ouimet, R-Scio Township. “These measures will encourage individual freedom and create an environment where job growth can thrive. The measures are pro-worker and pro-Michigan. Unions will still be able to make their case to workers, and now workers will have the right to choose."
The Freedom to Work measures would not apply to law enforcement personnel and firefighters, who are covered under the binding arbitration of Public Act 312.
The legislation does not affect collective bargaining, as it is already enshrined in law.