Right to Work “On the Agenda” in Michigan
December 6, 2012 10:25 am
In the months leading up to November, Michigan unions and their supporters attempted to preempt any attack on collective bargaining rights with Proposal 2, the Protect Our Jobs Act. The ultimately rejected proposal would have enshrined the right to unionize in the state’s constitution.
Now Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and Republican politicians have indicated that they may make a vindictive swipe at organized labor during the lame duck session of congress. Republican Governor Snyder called a press conference on Tuesday night after a meeting with GOP leaders, saying that “right to work” legislation is “on the agenda” (the governor had previously avoided the issue, stating that right to work laws were too divisive).
The Detroit News reported on Snyder’s remarks:
“There’s been enough discussion now that it has been highlighted enough, it’s an important issue, so we are going to talk about it,” Snyder told reporters. “There will be decisions made in the appropriate timeframe.”
The Detroit News reports that a Mitchell Research and Communications poll shows 51 percent of voters in favor of right to work with 41 percent opposed, yet the Detroit Free-Press reports that a poll by Lansing Firm EPIC-MRA shows “47% saying they were in favor and 46% opposed.” No bill has been introduced to date, but Republicans control both the state House and Senate, and a right to work bill would benefit from the votes of politicians who no longer have to worry about reelection.
Michigan union members are not taking the governor’s threat lying down. The state has the fifth-highest union density in the nation at 18 percent, and only one rust belt state, Indiana, has succumbed to right to work laws. A right to work bill, if passed, would make union dues optional and severely limit the political power of organized labor in the state.
Union members have already started to flood the capital with protest. From SF Gate:
Michigan State AFL-CIO spokeswoman Sara Wallenfang said her organization, which represents 56 labor groups, is helping to coordinate “lobby day” events at the Capitol, involving hundreds of union members.
“They … go talk to their representatives about why they think this is a horrible economic path to walk,” she said.
Shana Alderton, director of field services for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees in Michigan, was among the hundreds ringing the Capitol rotunda late Wednesday afternoon. Amid the din of banging, chanting and whistling, Alderton said the demonstrators hoped that lawmakers “will listen and understand that right-to-work is not good for Michigan.”
United Auto Workers President Bob King joined the hundreds of protestors in Lansing. From M Live:
King, who joined protesters who said they would spend all night at the Capitol until lawmakers adjourned, said he was less concerned about today than tomorrow.
“It isn’t about this week,” he said. “It’s about the next two years. We’re not going to let workers’ rights be trampled.”
A 2011 study by the Economic Policy Institute showed that workers in right to work states make 3.2 percent less than those in states without the anti-union laws. Snyder has stated that he expects unions to “put something on the table” if right to work doesn’t proceed. If this is political gamesmanship to gain union concessions, Snyder is gambling with the economic well being of Michigan’s workers.
Image from here