Conservative columnist Pat Buchanan says Michigan's new right-to-work law could be a "mortal blow" for unions, which have already been weakened by passage of similar laws in 23 other states and trade agreements that encourage companies to seek cheaper labor abroad.
"They're are not only becoming weaker, they've been devastated in the last 40, 50 years," Buchanan told Fox News' Greta Van Susteren Wednesday night.
"In 1950, one third of Americans were in unions. . . And what's happened here, this is almost a mortal blow."
Buchanan, a three-time presidential candidate who advised three Republican presidents, said he expects anyone paying dues to the unions now who are not full-fledged members are "going to stop paying dues," a move that would strike a hard financial blow to labor and make it difficult for unions to maintain their bargaining rights and finance their political activities.
He also noted that unions have been hurt over the years as well by global trade agreements that encourage U.S. businesses to move their operations abroad in search of cheaper labor.
"The threat here is not to the workers, it's to that union hierarchy, and the union structure, and the union money," Buchanan said, adding that workers in Michigan overall won't be any worse off than workers in other right-to-work states, where unions have been decimated.
But while he backs the idea of right-to-work, Buchanan said he agrees with the union leaders that the nation's free trade agreements have come at a great cost to American workers.
He said pacts like the North American Free Trade Agreement negotiated in part by former President George H.W. Bush and signed into law by President Bill Clinton, have made U.S. corporations and businesses richer while putting Americans out of work.
"This globalization, free trade, they have really been unfair," Buchanan said, pointing to businesses that use Mexican trucks to haul goods in and out of the U.S. as just one example.
"They're bringing Mexican trucks into the United States, driving them on American highways — Mexican drivers — and to undercut American teamsters. And I think that's wrong," said Buchanan.
"A teamster in Arizona ought to compete with a teamster in Alabama, but not a teamster in Mexico, who makes maybe one fifth the salary," he said.
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