Still, he insists he's not anti-union.

"I think they have a purpose," he says. "There are companies that don't treat their employees right." But in his case, he adds:, "If the union had come in, it would have been a failure on my part. I wouldn't have been doing the right thing."

Don McGough, an 11-year veteran at JWF, rejected the machinists' bid. A former member of the steelworkers union, he lost his job at a machine shop when staff was cut after a 15-week strike.

That experience, he says, taught him a lesson about union leaders and negotiators. "They're worried about themselves," he says. "They're not worried about us. ... You're really putting your future in the hands of people you don't really know, compared to here. I know the owner really well and trust him."

In Michigan, Zimmick, the UAW man, says if unions don't like their leaders, they can vote them out. He says he knows his members and they aren't happy when he has to deliver painful messages about concessions or higher health care costs, but are pretty accepting.

Now the union faces new pressures with right-to-work, but he says it's a temporary setback. He expects the law will be a major issue in the state's 2014 elections â¿¿ and his side will rebound.

"Unions will come back," he says. "I don't know when, but they will. They're here for a reason."

___

Sharon Cohen is a Chicago-based national writer. She can be reached at scohen(at)ap.org

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

If you liked this article you might like

What's Behind the Surge in Energy Stocks

Hillary Clinton Says Prosecuting Individuals is Key to Wall Street Reform