U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) took to the floor of the House of Representatives Wednesday night to criticize the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) for pushing "Right to Work" in Michigan, describing it as politically motivated "crush-the-union legislation" and noting the identical language between the ALEC model and Michigan's law.
Michigan Legislation Tracks ALEC Model "Almost Word-for-Word"
"One month after the landslide election that turned back the corporate money that was arrayed against the Democrats and arrayed against President Obama," Rep. Johnson said, in "a sneak attack [during] a lame duck session with no public hearings, with no committee action," Michigan issued a "blow, to crush unions, to crush collective bargaining [and] the power of individual workers to stand together."
The Michigan House passed two so-called "right to work" bills on Tuesday, which undermine collective bargaining for private sector and public sector unions by allowing workers to opt-out of paying the costs of union representation.
Rep. Johnson noted that the Michigan legislation was taken from the ALEC model "almost word-for-word," and directed citizens to the Center for Media and Democracy's (CMD) PRWatch.org website, where CMD has documented the verbatim language.
"30 days after the election we still have ALEC, and the corporations that fund it, out there trying to crush the middle class and crush the unions," he said.
Rep. Johnson described ALEC as "an ugly lobbying situation, when you put corporations with legislators in a wining and dining setting with the added benefit of campaign contributions." For ALEC's corporate members, the congressman said, "They can't lose."
"What happens when you put a giant with a midget in a cage fight?"
The congressman began his floor speech on right-to-work laws with the internet-meme-friendly teaser, "What happens when you put a giant with a midget in a cage fight?" A midget, of course, would be crushed by the giant's strength.
In a boxing match, Rep. Johnson noted, opponents are evenly matched by weight class. "But we don't have that setup between employers and employees," he said. "Whoever is paying the workers is usually the giant." The National Labor Relations Act, Rep. Johnson noted, "leveled the playing field between the giant and the midget" by promoting unionization.
"How do you go about making it a fair fight? You put 30 midgets in with the giant, and the midgets have a chance collectively."
But the move by Michigan and other right-to-work states limits the ability for collective action and puts the individual midget back in the cage with the giant.
Johnson represents Georgia's fourth congressional district outside of Atlanta. He has been a Member of Congress since 2007, after he defeated Rep. Cynthia McKinney in a democratic primary.