CNN aired a segment on Michigan's passage of a right-to-work law that was littered with misinformation, including the right-wing myth that workers in states without such laws are forced to join unions. In reality, federal law already prohibits unions from requiring workers to be members.
On Tuesday, Republican Gov. Rick Snyder signed the right-to-work legislation, which bans "requirements that nonunion employees pay unions for negotiating contracts and other services," the Associated Press reported. Unions strongly opposed the law, and heated protests have been taking place in and around the Capitol in Lansing.
On Erin Burnett OutFront, guest host Ashleigh Banfield began her coverage of the issue by claiming that the new Michigan law made it "illegal to force any workers to join a union." Similarly, reporter Poppy Harlow said workers in Michigan now "won't have to be part of a union." However, compulsory union membership is already illegal nationwide, and unions must still represent nonmembers under collective bargaining agreements. Right-to-work laws actually allow workers to receive these union benefits without having to pay fees.
The segment also featured footage of Harlow interviewing Gov. Snyder, who said, "I think we'll see thousands of jobs coming to Michigan." After the footage aired, Harlow stated that while union members typically earn higher wages than nonmembers, Michigan will be "more competitive for businesses to come in" if wages are lower because of the right-to-work law.
Harlow's claim is contradicted by economic research that says right-to-work laws have little impact on employment or economic growth.
Later in the segment, Banfield asked CNN contributor John Avlon to explain the difference between the labor protests in Michigan and those in Wisconsin last year. Avlon said the difference is that "Wisconsin was all about public-sector unions" and Republicans' push to eliminate collective bargaining for most government employees there. Avlon added, "There is a world of difference" in Michigan, "which is about right-to-work for private-sector unions."
But Avlon is wrong: The right-to-work legislation in Michigan affects private-sector workers and public-sector workers. The AP reported that the Michigan Legislature approved two bills: "One measure dealt with private-sector workers, the other with government employees. Republican Gov. Rick Snyder signed them both within hours."