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December 06, 2012 4:54 PM Macing Unions

By Ed Kilgore

As you may have heard, police used pepper spray on protestors at the Michigan State Capitol today after Gov. Rick Snyder and GOP legislative leaders unveiled a plan to blitz “right-to-work” legislation through a fast-track device during a lame-duck session. To all appearances, GOPers will have the votes to pull off this surprise maneuver, though they might have struggled to do so given their loss of five state House seats on November 6, which reduced (but did not eliminate) their majority.

You have to figure there was some national GOP/conservative input into this decision. The symbolism of Michigan, with its proud labor history, joining the (mostly) southern and western states in the officially anti-union column would be pretty big.

And despite all the rhetoric about “freedom” surrounding this and every other RTW initiative, what such laws actually do is to ban freely negotiated “union shop” contracts between employer and unions requiring that workers represented in collective bargaining contribute to those representing them. Section 14(b) of the Taft-Hartley Act, which gave the states the power to enact such laws, was wildly controversial at the time it was enacted, and needs to become so again today.

It’s possible Michigan GOPers have overreached with this atavistic coup. But progressives around the country who responded so avidly to the earlier battle over collective bargaining in Wisconsin really need to make some noise about Michigan right now.

UPDATE: President Obama comes out against proposed Michigan law, which will certainly help make some noise.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

Comments

  • James E. Powell on December 06, 2012 5:14 PM:

    But progressives around the country who responded so avidly to the earlier battle over collective bargaining in Wisconsin really need to make some noise about Michigan right now.

    What, exactly, would progressives making noise accomplish? I'm not suggesting doing or saying nothing, but there is very little anyone can do when there is a determined and cohesive group in power.

    And, too, the support for union-bashing is larger than the support for unions. Or so it seems from election results.

  • bdop4 on December 06, 2012 6:01 PM:

    To be honest, it confounds me that a signficant percentage of workers in manufacturing / service industries don't want to pay union dues. Do they really believe they have as much negotiating leverage for wages and benefits on their own?

    No serious labor reform is going to be possible until workers start demanding benefits that more closely reflect their true value. I also think unions are going to have to start demanding higher standards from their members in order to have more bargaining leverage.

  • KarenJG on December 06, 2012 7:16 PM:

    bdop4, they'll still get the benefits of the union's bargaining leverage. They'll just get it for "free" - i.e., they won't have to pay dues to be represented by the union. I.e., freeloading on the dues-paying union members. Of course, that will only last until those leeches bleed the unions dry. Then the freeloaders will be in the same boat as any other at-will serf.

    I wouldn't be quite as upset about this attack if unions had the right to bargain ONLY for their dues paying members. But they don't. This is simply a slower way to kill unions, while inflicting as much pain as possible.

    I've said for years that the Publican strategy is to gut the middle class, then spread the offal around to draw in the wolves to feed. This is just another tactic in service of that strategy.

  • boo/hiss on December 06, 2012 8:08 PM:

    Many state workers fled to early retirement when tea partiers took over the great state of Pennsylvania in 2011----anticipating anti-union sentiment as well as largesse with state funds/tax payer money paid to energy interests/corporations in Republicans' appreciation of corporate right wing campaign contributions--as it was.
    Three branches of state government taken over by tea partiers. Capable of goshdarn anything.....
    the horror, the horror......

  • here's dissent on December 06, 2012 8:32 PM:

  • G.Kerby on December 06, 2012 10:52 PM:

    To be honest, it confounds me that a signficant percentage of workers in manufacturing / service industries don't want to pay union dues. Do they really believe they have as much negotiating leverage for wages and benefits on their own?

    There are just enough christianist-radicals working in Michigan union shops who believe that their dues go directly to killing babies. I worked with one, who took our union to court in the 90s and won a case eliminating our union from using any dues for political purposes.

  • Robb on December 07, 2012 8:09 AM:

    It passed. Our state has been going to hell in a handbasket for some time. A lot of people still blame the unions for the fall of the automotive industry.
    Plus, as a microcosm of the country, our large left-leaning population is centered in the south-eastern part of the state. Most of the districts however are Republican, so they always have a majority in congress.

    What's shocking is Snyder. Elected as a moderate, he was initially "neutral" on RTW and cautioned Republicans against it as a matter of timing.
    Now apparently he's come to realize that he has no support from the state's GOP wingnuts and thus can't be reelected, so he's pandering to the right.
    I was actually considering giving him benefit of the doubt in 2016 (I often end up defending him against Republicans), but I'm done with him.

  • POed Lib on December 07, 2012 9:02 AM:

    Robb: Why don't the Dems leave the state and deny quorum? There's still time. The session ends in Jan. They just need to be gone for a few days.

  • Sean T on December 07, 2012 12:42 PM:

    Here is the thing about this that is just a dumb take on the situation. How can this be even remotely a surprise? I mean seriously. this is page 1 of the ALEC playbook, and the Kochs and Adelson are on record just this week for their jihad against unions. does anyone think that is going to stop? no. Adelson stated he would focus on states.

    any Dems who are caught unawares of this should be thrown out of office immediately because they are incompetent morons.