(02/05/13) - In just a matter of weeks, Michigan officially becomes the
nation's twenty-fourth Right to Work state.
As the days draw closer to change, those against the legislation aren't giving up their fight to get the law off the books.
Our neighbor, Indiana, has been Right to Work for exactly one year this month. How has the law worked for them?
We went to the Hoosier state and toured a plant in Fort Wayne that's owned by a Michigan-based company.
We wanted to know how much of a role Right to Work played in the company's expansion there, and how the workers feel about working in a non-union shop. What we found may surprise you.
With a population of 253,000, Fort Wayne is Indiana's second largest city.
Manufacturing is deeply rooted in the city. In fact, General Motors says it's home to one of its most productive assembly plants. The Fort Wayne facility produces the GMC Sierra and Chevy Silverado pick up trucks.
It's also where Android Industries expanded its operations last year, hiring 90 people and running three shifts. Here, they supply the GM truck plant with tires and wheels, as the trucks assembled.
"It would have been impossible to work out of Auburn Hills and ship parts to them. You have to be within a close proximity to them," said Dave Donnay, vice president of business systems at the Android Headquarters in Auburn Hills
Donnay was part of the expansion process.
"Indiana has been a very company-friendly place to work," he said.
Right to Work legislation was a hot button issue around the time Android made its plans public. The Indiana Economic Development Corporation even listed Android Industries as one of the companies that chose Indiana because of the legislation.
"The decision to go where we are today was driven by a lot of factors. The main one was our customer," Donnay said.
Android has operations around the world. In some plants, workers are represented by union, and others are non-union like in Fort Wayne.
Donnay believes the legislation works because it leaves the option of paying union dues in the hands of the worker.
"The employee has a choice, and in America, we should have choices. We shouldn't be forced to do anything," he said.
Critics worry Right to Work will bring lower wages and benefits, and create uneasy working relationships with management. We randomly asked employees on the plant floor.
"I have fun everyday," said worker Veronica Ramos. "I like that it's first shift, I get to choose when I work. The pay's not bad."
"This is a great place to work. It's fun. Staff, boss, they are all considerate of each other. Everybody's a team player," said worker Lionel Green.
While he understands both the fear and the hope of this new legislation for Michigan, Donnay says Android hasn't had any issues in its plants, and the state should welcome this new chapter.
"I would hope that more companies would come to Michigan. That's what we need, that's what we need in our state. We need to attract good companies," he said.
Keep in mind, this is just one of many views about the legislation in Indiana.
We requested an interview with the IEDC about their list, but were told no one was available. We also put in requests to a number of labor and teachers unions in Indiana - we were also declined.
The UAW in Fort Wayne told us it won't know how Right to Work will play out until its labor negotiation next year.
The AFL-CIO in Indiana maintains the law deteriorates wages and benefits.
In the meantime, Michigan's Right to Work legislation is expected to take effect March 27.
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