Despite the success of groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the State Policy Network (SPN) and their affiliates, and other related anti-union corporate front groups in making states like Michigan so-called “Right to Work” states, these same groups are having far less success in actually getting people to leave their unions. In Michigan, for example, only around 1% of their members quit the Michigan Education Association teachers union after Michigan became a right to work state. The fact is that union membership as a percentage of the work force in our state has remained largely flat since right to work was passed and the number of people who belong to a union increased by 4,000 last year.
Infuriated by this failure to destroy unions, the anti-union groups are attempting to step up their game. Here in Michigan, the SPN affiliate Mackinac Center for Public Policy has infuriated teachers across the state by spamming their work email boxes with emails urging them to “opt-out” of their membership in the Michigan Education Association (MEA) during the August opt-out period.
I have written about the SPN before (HERE and HERE.) They are a powerful coalition of corporate-funded groups and “think tanks” that create fake news bureaus to disseminate propaganda posing a “news” in an attempt to affect the information you receive through traditional media sources and to affect public policy and laws.
Here’s what I wrote about the SPN last year:
The SPN started in 1992 to fight tobacco regulation. Today, it focuses on union busting and the spread of right to work laws, stopping environmental regulation, encouraging the spread of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”), privatization of education to for-profit corporations including expanded use of “virtual schools” (online classes), opposing net neutrality, and shifting the country’s tax burden from corporations to the middle class. Here’s how Fang describes what’s happening:
This latest project in conservative infrastructure building comes at a time when power is drifting away from political parties and other long-established organizations. The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision has accelerated this trend, with new Super PACs and attack-ad nonprofits springing up almost as fast as donors can write checks. The upgraded state echo chambers, led by SPN think tanks, seem particularly well-suited for this environment: they are fast-paced, Internet-savvy and dedicated to eliminating their perceived opposition.
The decline of media outlets doing serious journalism has created a supreme opportunity for this coalition of groups. Into the void created by the demise of major newspapers and the investigative reporting they do, SPN-affiliated think tanks have rushed to own that space. The result is that we can no longer trust much of what we read in the media.
Though the Mackinac Center has been stymied in their efforts in some instances thanks to groups like Progress Michigan, they still continue to get traction from time to time. Two weeks ago they managed to get a front-page article in the Livingston County Press & Argus touting their “August Opt-out” effort. Just yesterday, Michigan Public Radio ran a piece about it, as well. They also continue to spam teachers and recently sent out yet another email to teachers across the state saying that the website AugustOptOut.org “gives you the complete picture in deciding whether you want to remain a member of the MEA.”
What it actually does, of course, is to give a slanted, anti-union pitch asking teachers to basically become freeloaders by not paying union dues even as they enjoy the many benefits of union membership.
A national group, “National Employee Freedom Week”, is now following their lead. Like the Mackinac Center’s failed effort, NEFW encourages union members to become freeloaders by leaving their unions while the unions continue to bargain for on their behalf for better wages, better working conditions, and better benefits. Other benefits include:
- Unionized workers are 60 percent more likely to have employer-provided pensions.
- More than 85 percent of union workers have jobs that provide health insurance benefits, but only 54 percent of nonunion workers do. Unions help employers create a more stable, productive workforce—where workers have a say in improving their jobs.
- Unions help bring workers out of poverty and into the middle class. In fact, in states where workers don’t have union rights, workers’ incomes are lower.
National Employee Freedom Week, which runs from August 10-16, is a joint effort from an SPN affiliate pretending to be a non-union option called the Association of American Educators (AAE) and SPN affiliate Nevada Policy Research Institute (NPRI). These groups are closely connected to other national anti-union groups such as the National Right to Work Committee, Freedom Works, ALEC, the Koch brothers, and the Heritage Foundation.
The good news is that these corporate front groups are largely failing in their mission to push an extreme anti-worker agenda and dismantle labor unions or anything else that gets in the way of unchecked corporate greed. National Employee Freedom Week is largely unknown, though they are clearly well-funded with a slick website and an enticing “please become a freeloader” messaging splashed across multiple webpages.
Here in Michigan, the MEA is pushing back. They have created a website — MEAmatters.org — to inform educators about the lies and misinformation being spread by the Mackinac Center.
If you read, see, or hear anti-union “reporting” in the media, you can be almost certain that there is a State Policy Network affiliate behind the scenes, pushing the “story” and impacting the “news” that you read, see, or hear. This isn’t true journalism. This is propaganda being disseminated as journalism and the groups that give voice to this propaganda should be ashamed. This includes Michigan Radio and their “reporting” yesterday on this non-story about the Mackinac Center’s anti-union project.
If you are a union member, educate yourself. If you are encouraged to leave the union, please make your decision knowing that the ulterior motive behind those urging you to freeload from unions who represent you in the work place is ultimately to destroy the unions themselves.
If that happens, every worker in the USA, whether they belong to a union or not, will pay a steep price in terms of lower wages, worse protections, and dramatically reduced benefits.