Michigan Nears Boiling Point
December 7, 2012 9:39 am
UPDATE: In a truly sad state of affairs, the Michigan House fast-tracked and passed the so-called “right to work” bill by a 58 to 52 margin on Thursday afternoon.
Earlier this week, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder said that after discussing it with Republican leaders, a potential right to work bill was “on the agenda” for Michigan, and the state’s capital has erupted in unrest as a result. Snyder had previously shied away from pushing anti-union “right to work” legislation, stating that the issue was too divisive.
Yesterday, about 200 union members and activists gathered outside the state capitol when the building went into “lockdown” mode, meaning people already inside were allowed to stay but entrance was prohibited. Police pepper sprayed and arrested protestors who attempted to rush the Senate floor; UAW President Bob King was among those locked out of the capitol building.
Snyder held a press conference on his plans to push the legislation through the lame duck session even as an angry mob gathered in the capital rotunda. From CBS Detroit:
Snyder repeatedly referred to the Workplace Fairness and Equality Act as “pro-worker,” saying when then legislation arrives on his desk he plans to sign it quickly.
“We should not let this fester. Let’s move forward, let’s get answers so we can get things done,” he said.
The roundtable discussion came as opponents gathered outside the capitol in protest and just a day after union members filled the rotunda chanting, “We are Michigan.”
Snyder was dismissive of the protest, claiming that proposed legislation would only affect 20 percent of Michigan’s workers. The 20 percent Snyder speaks of is the percentage of Michigan’s workforce that belong to a union — the fifth highest unionization rate in the nation. Snyder said that right to work bills would be introduced Thursday that will be designed to pass quickly through the Republican-controlled House and Senate.
Congressman Gary Peters released a statement on the governor’s combative actions, which can be seen as blowback against the attempt to add collective bargaining rights to the state’s constitution — a measure voters rejected in December:
From WXYZ Action News:
Meantime, Congressman Gary Peters released a statement denouncing Governor Snyder’s support of the legislation calling it an attack on Michigan families.
“Governor Snyder campaigned on a promise of unity, but instead he’s ushering in an era of divisiveness across Michigan by launching an attack against working families,” said U.S. Congressman Gary Peters. “By trying to jam this through a lame duck session, Governor Snyder is trying to prevent voters from seeing how he is dividing Michigan instead of working to ensure the future of our state during this fragile recovery. Just like Scott Walker, Governor Snyder’s flip flop is clearly a calculated decision to put his own political ambitions ahead of the families he’s supposed to be working for. I stand in solidarity with Michigan’s working families, and we will never stop fighting against this unprecedented and reckless action by Governor Snyder.”
Thursday’s actions and arrests show that right to work is as divisive now as it has ever been. A host of studies prove that right to work laws drive down wages and working conditions across the board. It looks like Snyder and his cronies plan to forge on anyway.
[Post-script, from the AFL-CIO:
By the end of the day, both the Senate and the House vacated existing “placeholder” bills, dropped in new RTWFL language and passed a total of three bills—two in the Senate and another in the House. No committee hearings. No floor debate. The Democrats could do virtually nothing as the Republicans steamrolled the bills through without any formal public input whatsoever.
A procedural speed bump put in place by Democrats delayed moving the Senate bills to the House by one day and there is a mandatory five-day waiting period before the House can take action. This allows union-supporting citizens to express their disdain for these new laws, just as they did on Thursday as thousands of Michiganders descended on the capitol building. In the onslaught of this informal public input, House Speaker Bolger locked down the capitol building. Tempers flared, protestors were maced and it took a court order requested by the Democrats to get the building opened again.
The bills include a $1 million appropriation. Michigan law precludes citizen referendums to overturn laws with appropriations, so not only was there no opportunity for public input before the bills were voted on, there will be none afterwards, as well.
Michigan AFL-CIO President Karla Swift told me, “Today was a dark day for democracy in Michigan. The people were shut out of their own capitol so that lawmakers could better serve corporate special interests. But working people in this state are resilient, and will keep fighting until their voices are heard.”]
Image from here