Michigan Showdown Over Union Rights

by on December 12, 2012 · 1 comment

in American Empire, Civil Rights, History, Labor, Politics

Michigan’s “Right to Work” Struggle: It Ain’t Over ‘Till It’s Over

Editor: Since this post by Doug Porter was written, the Michigan governor signed the legislation, upping the ante in this historic fight against his own people.

There’s a major showdown over so-called right-to-work laws in Michigan. Thousands of union supporters gathered outside the State Capitol building as a lame-duck Republican dominated legislature voted for that State to join the ranks of 23 other states with similar legislation.

For those of you who might think this hubbub is about protecting an individual’s right not to join a union, think again. It’s against Federal law to make union membership mandatory. However, “right-to-work” states take things one step further and say that employees are allowed to benefit from negotiated contracts without paying the “service fee” (not used for political activities) that unions typically collect from non-members covered by the contracts. For a better understanding of what these laws do, I suggest this article from the Washington Post.

What this does is to impact unions financially, weakening them. And, as the right has been advocating since the 1980’s, this is an essential part of a strategy to defund the Democratic party.

President Obama has injected himself into the Michigan fight. From The Hill:

The quick entry into the fight by Obama suggests the White House could be more aggressively involved in the Michigan fight than in a similar battle in Wisconsin in 2011.

It also signaled an alliance between Obama and labor amid fiscal talks in which Obama will be under pressure to offer Republicans entitlement reforms opposed by unions.

“I’ve just got to say this,” Obama said at the Daimler Detroit Diesel plant in Michigan before a small crowd of workers. “What we shouldn’t be doing is trying to take away your rights to bargain for better wages and working conditions. We shouldn’t be doing that.

“You know, these so-called right-to-work laws, they don’t have to do with economics, they have everything to do with politics,” Obama added to applause and cheers from the crowd. “What they’re really talking about is giving you the right to work for less money.”

The Detroit Free Press points out that this legislation didn’t come from some deep seated urge on the part of Republicans to “help’ workers:

The…Koch-funded group, the American Legislative Exchange Council, which promotes a radical right-wing agenda in states across the country, supplying “model legislation” to sympathetic lawmakers.

The organization boasts more than 2,000 legislative members. It also has corporate members, who weigh in on the model legislation before it’s approved by the group’s public-sector committee, the group’s national chairman said in an interview he gave after dozens of pieces of ALEC-written model legislation were leaked last year in a joint project by The Nation and the Center for Media and Democracy.

Michigan‘s proposed right-to-work bills mirror the ALEC language practically word-for-word.

It’s expected that this legislation will pass and be signed by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder. However, the people in Michigan may yet have the final say. From the

Michigan‘s proposed right-to-work bills mirror the ALEC language practically word-for-word.

It’s expected that this legislation will pass and be signed by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder. However, the people in Michigan may yet have the final say. From the Washington Post today:

But NBC’s Michael O’Brien reports that labor operatives believe they may have it on a new procedural way to force a vote on the legislation. If the major unions avail themselves of this option — and if it pans out legally — this means the Dem threats to turn this into an extended all-out war could come to pass.

Republicans have tried to protect the law from going before the voters by attaching an appropriation to it; spending bills can’t be overturned by legislative referendum in Michigan. But union operatives think there is another mechanism by which the law can be challenged. According to one good government group’s analysis of the state constitution, there exists the option of the “statutory initiative,” which would be forced by the collecting of signatures equal to at least eight percent of the votes cast in the last gubernatorial election.


The idea here is this: If such a tactic can force a vote on the “right to work” law, Governor Snyder will be heading into reelection in 2014 up against a heavily energized union base, a ton of money pumped into the state by national unions — even as there’s a major pro-collective bargaining initiative on the ballot. Of course, if this happens, major money from the right will flow into the state, too.

Now, to be clear, the major unions may decide against this route — or it may not work. But if they do opt for it, and if it does work, you could see another extended showdown similar to the ones in Wisconsin and Ohio — still another nationally funded clash over the broader fate of organized labor. Stay tuned.

The above is an excerpt from Doug Porter’s daily column at San Diego Free Press.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Beyond The Spectrum December 12, 2012 at 3:54 pm

Another leader yeas ago sought to weaken unions…Adolf Hitler in Nazi Germany!


Leave a Comment

Older Article:

Newer Article: