By Mary Bottari on December 06, 2012

Today in Michigan, Gov. Rick Snyder and his GOP controlled lame-duck legislature pulled a fast one, introducing and then ramming through the House and the Senate so-called "right to work" legislation. The bill was introduced at 11 a.m., passed the House at 5 p.m. by a narrow margin and the Senate at around 6:00 p.m. When the process is complete and the bill is signed, Michigan will become the 24th right to work state.

people in the Michigan CapitolWhy the rush? The GOP majority felt it might not have the votes once the newly elected legislature was seated in January. The bill is designed so it cannot be repealed by popular referendum.

The Capitol was chaotic today as police peppersprayed protesters and locked down the building, forcing Democrats to seek a court order to get the doors open again. "It's not only anti-worker, its anti-democratic," Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero told MSNBC.

Right to work bills prohibit unions from requiring all members to pay dues. The laws make it much harder for unions to organize and exist. They have long been used in the South to push down wages and weaken worker movements. The Michigan bill will apply to both public and private sector unions.

At a time when working families are struggling, the Michigan GOP decided it was a fine time to push for a race to the bottom in wages and working conditions, while at the same time kneecapping their chief opponents in the political arena -- organized workers.

Koch Brothers Kick Up Their Heels

Standing tall behind the measure was David Koch's Americans for Prosperity group, the non-profit organization that bankrolled Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's efforts to strip the state's public employee unions of their collective bargaining rights. AFP ran a multi-million dollar ad campaign trying to convince Wisconsinites that unions were their enemy, sponsoring rallies and backing Walker to the hilt when he later faced recall over the measure.

The crowing began early this morning. "Michigan passage of right-to-work legislation will be the shot heard around the world for workplace freedom. A victory over forced unionization in a union stronghold like Michigan would be an unprecedented win on par with Wisconsin that would pave the way for right to work in states across our nation," said Scott Hagerstrom, Michigan director of AFP in a statement.

AFP and other Koch-funded groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) have long promoted an extreme anti-worker agenda. It comes as no surprise that key sponsors of the Michigan bill in the House and the Senate such as Senator Arlan Meekhoff, Rep. Tom McMillin, and Rep. Pete Lund are ALEC members. Michigan legislators talked about their plans for passing Right to Work at the ALEC Spring Task Force Meeting in Charlotte earlier this year according to a legislator from New Hampshire.

The ALEC library of bills CMD first posted on ALECexposed.org not only includes a "model" "Right to Work" bill and other measures to disempower and defund unions, but a raft of measures to crush wages for the benefit of corporate CEOs. ALEC has bills to repeal living wage laws, prevailing wage laws, and even minimum wage laws. The only workers ALEC wants to help are workers in China; ALEC has never seen a job killing free trade bill that it has not backed.

Workplace Fairness or a Race to the Bottom?

Michigan's Republican Governor Rick Snyder has vowed to sign the bill into law and said today, "This is about workplace fairness and equality. This is about the relationship between workers and their union. Workers should have a right to choose who they associate with." His goal was to "bring people together," not divide Michigan.

This is a change in tune for the Governor who previously said that the legislation was not a "policy priority" because it was "too divisive."

The move was political payback for the unions that had attempted to protect themselves from such an assault by changing the Constitution in an unsuccessful ballot measure this past fall. "The union bosses overreached in Michigan when they tried to strong arm their way into our Constitution, and we are proud to stand with the elected officials who are going to strike a blow for workplace freedom," said AFP's Hagerstrom. AFP opposed Prop 2 and other pro-union measures on the ballot.

But "workplace freedom" does not translate into higher wages.

"Laws like this bring lower wages, slashed benefits, disappearing pensions and unsafe workplaces. They silence the voices of people who work for a living. Calling this bill 'Right-To-Work' is a lie. The only rights it will provide are the rights of millionaires and billionaires to do whatever they want to working people. This is wrong for Michigan and wrong for hard-working people across the United States," said United Steelworkers President Leo Gerard.

"If what we want to do is do a little bit better at attracting certain kinds of low-wage jobs, I think this may help," Michigan economist Charles Ballard said. "But it's an awful lot of political blood to be spilled for something that will not galvanize Michigan's economy."


CMD's Harriet Rowan contributed to this article.

Mary Bottari

Mary Bottari, CMD's Deputy Director, is an experienced policy wonk and consumer advocate who has served as a senior analyst on trade.

Comments

Yeah. Right. I think I know why all those people "quit looking." They don't care anymore. I don't care anymore. I recall my first lesson in "Right to Work" way back at the beginning of political correctness and at the dawn of "how to say it backward or not at all," thereby nullifying. The old double negative. Well, they got my body, but they didn't get my mind. Whatever the language, I can root out what it said in reality. It's a gift, one for which I studied hard. But-- Right to Work sure did top the cake.

Nazi Germany outlawed unions, so did Stalin,so does China. So will the Republican/Tea Party.

I don't want to be force to join a union. I want the right to bargain for my self, prove my self. The flexibility to receive higher pay based on the value I provide the company I work at.

I have seen first hand how unions take care of you, for example when you are injured as a glazier. They put you on a desk job, that way you are working, then they fire you, claiming you are not good at it. They navigate the greed train like all other greedy people. They only care about you because they use us to gain more power.

You bring up Stalin, China? and associate them with Republican/Tea Party as an argument that they are similar? really, so forcing someone to be in a union if they are a glazier, or a teacher is different? keep drinking the Kool-Aid

The limping quackers certainly knocked the bejeezus out of Michigan working people , and in record time, too! Had it been an actual fight, there would have been a record number of sprained duck shoulders in Lansing, since organized Labor has been so MIA lately that there was scarcely a target for Snyder & Co. to land a punch on.

Just seven hours was all it took here in the staggered ex-union heartland , where we're mainly still so thrilled that Walter Reuther marched w/ M.L. King back in 1963 that we usually neglect to notice that it's been more than 50 years since we started to coast downhill from the peak of our organized power.

But, if it's any consolation , which it isn't outside of your local insane asylum, Patrick Devlin ( Michigan Building Trades' amazingly ineffective lead observer , and sad-eyed mumbling spokesperson ) is no doubt as excited as ever to still 'have a seat at the table'. Snyder Inc.'s table , that is. Yo, Patrick... you were on the damn MENU, dude.

- John A. Joslin ( IBEW local # 58 -Detroit )

America sees the effect of a century of labor unions in Michigan--GM in collapse (overpriced and underperforming cars), skyrocketing crime and murder rates, ghost-town neighborhoods demolished--a state in total free fall. Yeah, labor unions have been such a positive influence! Don't blame the GOP, either, because these actions all began happening in the last 40 years. And how does it make sense that someone who doesn't join a union should be required to pay dues anyway? You accuse the GOP of being Stalinist because they don't support unions, but isn't forcing someone to do something against their will and that may not be in line with their political views is, at its core, totalitarian? In other words, tyrannical--just like Stalin and Hitler.
I am a conscientious buyer and I look for the union label--then I put the item back on the shelf and keep looking for a non-union version, even if I have to resort to foreign-made. I will never willingly or knowingly buy union-made. Never.
What have Unions done for America?
1) 1937: Unions gave us the 40-hour work week. (1 point)
2) Fair Wages And Relative Income Equality (yet folks still aren't making enough to survive--even in Michigan.) (-1/2 point)
3) 1938: The end of child labor. Unions helped, but they didn't do it singlehandedly. (1/3 of a point, since two non-union groups also participated.)
4) 1942: Unions fought for employer-provided health coverage. (1 point)
5) 1993: Medical and family leave act. (1 point)
Total points: 2.83
Wow, what an effective 110 year history unions have had. I think I'll continue to take my chances and keep my money here in the South, where the only people who live in squalor are uneducated or too lazy to find gainful employment (like you can find at any Wal-Mart!)

Long Live Right To Work!

You know nothing about unions and are just a hater looking for anything to back up your hater position. We all lose in Michigan because of haters like you!

Unions stifle growth. If an employee doesn't like what the employer offers, the employee is free to leave. How hard is that to understand?

employees are free to leave ??? what is that all about.
There are not enough jobs for everyone. So what you
are saying is TOUGH STUFF employee take and like it
because you have no choice. The employer has the ability
to TOTALLY treat his employees any damn way he wants.
So.... employee just shut up and deal with it.
NICE............... yeppers that is what we want
america to be all about.... at least from your narrow minded comment.

Yes there will be business that treat their employee's poorly. There will also be employers that treat their employee's great. This is a style argument. Do we want a world where (metaphor here) all parents are required to raise their children a specific way, you can't do more, can't do less. you must raise them a certain way. OR do we have the freedom as parents to raise our children the way we see fit.

Yes there is a major difference with some companies between a parent and children compared to employer and employee. Especially more common in large employers were people can truly become a number, but their are also similarities, of which I have choose use for the purpose of the metaphor.

In the end, with right to work, it is us the people who have a right to work for good employers, the right to excel and bargain for compensation when we provide value, and if they don't compensate us, we take our value we can provide a business to someone else.

My mother was a manager for the state for 35 years, I cant begin to count all the times she had to keep staff that would blatantly tell her "I don't have to come in at 8, you cant fire me". her staff was 3 times the size it should have been because she, as a manager was not allowed to manage. So right to work moves us away from Cuba and more towards opportunity.

In Cuba, for example, there is a person assigned by the state to have the role of taking faxes of the fax machine and distributing the fax. When they are sick, faxes are not distributed. Because the organizing body says only fax people can distribute faxes. This is a true story. So faxes will be un answered, not processed. And processors cannot do their job either. The pay sucks, the system does not work, there is no way to move up.

My father, Brother, Mother were all in unions. Unions have been around for hundreds of years. The concept is great. What we have today is corruption at the highest level in unions. I remember a meeting a co-worker was in with the AFLCIO where they were trying to work this deal for all members to purchase xyz through the union. It was a shady deal, do shady for them. The AFLCIO guy who was championing the deal later that day said to, I will call him Mr Partner, said to him, "If this deal doesn't go through, your gonna find my body floating in the f(explicit) river" being 100% truthful. The deal didn't go through, he was never heard of again to my knowledge. There is massive power and money in orgs like the AFLCIO, all members are numbers. You have an ID.

As a glazier, the union now is acting as a staffing agency. No you don't even actually work for a company, the union places you on jobs. Apparently based on seniority, but in realty based on how quite you stay, and if you play along with their rules on their crap dental which is a joke, and the medicaless insurance. If I had the right to work, since I am good at what I do, safe working, understand what the customer wants and why they pay money. If I could work for a business that had the flexibility to reward value, I could be rewarded. I don't have that choice. So the business can excel and neither can I. I might as well be in cuba. At least it would be warm.

I'd like to know if you have ever worked in your sad little life. Maybe you worked at bilking the IRS but, I think that's about the extent of your small existence and that very big sore situated just below your nose. I'll bet you were and or, still are a parasite on you're parents thus never having to do anything for yourself. Sad little man, you probably irk yourself more than you do anyone up here. The best you could do for society is raise your pistol to your parasite noggin and pull the trigger.

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