Political Animal


December 07, 2012 12:26 PM Racing To the Bottom In Michigan

By Ed Kilgore

It won’t be formal until next Tuesday (thanks to a five-day delay requirement for bills passed by both Houses), but the Michigan legislature has indeed approved “right-to-work” legislation in a lame-duck session blitzkrieg of enormous audacity. There were no hearings, no public debate, and virtually no warning before the famously pro-labor state joined the Greater South in declaring itself union-unfriendly territory, as Gov. Rick Snyder abruptly reversed his prior opposition to consideration of such legislation. That very day the hammer came down in a series of votes.

One of the right-to-work bills (the one affecting public-sector workers) passed the Michigan House by a 58-52 margin, just one vote below the number of Republicans who will serve in the next session. This reinforces the impression that GOpers feared they wouldn’t have to votes to enact right-to-work had they utilized the normal legislative process and waited until representatives elected on November 6 were in place.

The panic-stricken nature of the GOP coup wasn’t much reflected in the bland and empty public rationales offered for it by Snyder:

In an interview with The Associated Press, Snyder said he had kept the issue at arm’s length while pursuing other programs to bolster the state economy. But he said circumstances had pushed the matter to the forefront.
“It is a divisive issue,” he acknowledged. “But it was already being divisive over the past few weeks, so let’s get this resolved. Let’s reach a conclusion that’s in the best interests of all.”
Also influencing his decision, he said, were reports that some 90 companies had decided to locate in Indiana since that state adopted right-to-work legislation. “That’s thousands of jobs, and we want to have that kind of success in Michigan,” he said.

OMG, Indiana’s screwing its workers, so Michigan has to do the same right now! This is very literally a “race to the bottom” if ever there has been one.

Because Republican legislators shrewdly attached an appropriation to the bill, it will not be subject to reversal by initiative. Looks like November 2014 will be the first opportunity for some accountability, when the entire legislature is up for re-election, along with Snyder.

The Michigan Senate’s Democratic Leader, Gretchen Whitmer, had a tart description of the entire manuever:

“These guys have lied to us all along the way,” she said. “They are pushing through the most divisive legislation they could come up with in the dark of night, at the end of a lame-duck session and then they’re going to hightail it out of town. It’s cowardly.”

And a fine “happy holidays” to Michigan workers, too.

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.


  • NCSteve on December 07, 2012 12:54 PM:

    Attention Michigan voters. There's a fable involving a snake who needed a ride across a river you may want to read before the next election . . .

  • Gandalf on December 07, 2012 1:04 PM:

    Right to work my ass. What it really is is right to get paid less.

  • FriscoSF on December 07, 2012 1:15 PM:

    WHAT ever happened to the FILIBUSTER ??
    Hard to beleive in a Northern state like Michigan

    But, the Goopers reveal their true colors
    Will Michigan voters notice ?

  • schtick on December 07, 2012 1:15 PM:

    Everyone was focused on the federal elections and paid little to no attention to the state elections. Right to work is right to slavery.

  • c u n d gulag on December 07, 2012 1:16 PM:

    Is Michigan out of tar?
    What, no feathers?
    Short on rails?

    How about some feckin' rope, hanging from trees that are just the right height?

  • exlibra on December 07, 2012 1:27 PM:

    gulag, they're short of barrows. But they're working on a new model, a fuel efficient one. Or so my friends in Michigan tell me. At least some of them hope that Gretchen Whitmer mentioned in the article will run for Governor in '14.

  • martin on December 07, 2012 1:41 PM:

    I see a general strike in someone's future. Maybe Michigan will be the first state to Go French!

    regime lnolat says Mr Captcha.

  • Frank on December 07, 2012 1:44 PM:

    Does Michigan have a voter-referendum process, like Ohio?

  • G.Kerby on December 07, 2012 1:46 PM:

    How appropriate that they pass it now. The repubs have done more damage to the US than the Japanese ever dreamt with Pearl Harbor. The war on fascism is being lost 60+ years after the end of WWII.

  • low-tech cyclist on December 07, 2012 2:04 PM:

    State legislators are rarely big shots living in gated communities. I'd say it's time for their neighbors to make the lives of the GOPers who voted for these laws miserable. Every morning, they should wake up to s**t (literal, actual s**t, btw - I'm not being metaphorical) on their doorsteps, covering their cars, you name it.

    They've earned this treatment, they deserve it, and they should get it good and hard.

  • Don K on December 07, 2012 2:28 PM:

    Yes, MI has both the initiative and referendum. These laws can't be repealed by referendums, because they include appropriations. They could, however, be amended or repealed by initiative.

    Initiative takes more signatures (8% of the total votes cast for governor at the last election rather than 5% for a referendum), but that's not a big deal once you've got the signature-gathering machinery in gear. Referendum would put the laws on hold until the election of '14, while initiative doesn't.

    OTOH, once enacted, an initiated law can't be amended or repealed except by a new vote of the people or a 3/4 vote of the legislature.

  • MIMOm on December 07, 2012 3:00 PM:

    this isn't the only fucked up law our illustrious shits in Lansing ramrodded through yesterday.

    we also got:
    The Religious Liberty and Conscience Protection Act

    This bill, passed by the state Senate yesterday, would allow health care providers, facilities, or insurers to deny care base on religious, moral, or ethical objections.

    The state Senate also passed a package of abortion-related bills.

    One bill would ban insurance companies in Michigan from providing coverage for elective abortions. Women who wanted the coverage would have to buy extra insurance. (At this time no insurance company sells this type of rider for a policy and tell me who plans needing an abortion for any reason?)
    a NEW Emergency manager bill (after the populous defeated this one at the poll last month)

  • John on December 07, 2012 3:40 PM:

    It is so sad to see this happening. I grew up in Michigan. They already had it tough and now this.

  • James E. Powell on December 07, 2012 4:01 PM:

    We have to hope that the people of Michigan who elected the people who enacted these laws will show their disapproval by not re-electing them next time. But then, we hoped the same thing of the people of Wisconsin.

    The Republicans are the servants of the ruling class; there actions are completely understandable. What amazes me is that people in Michigan, like Wisconsin, apparently believe that if they can improve their lives by making their neighbors' lives worse.

    I expect many will blame Obama.

  • Daniel Kim on December 07, 2012 5:07 PM:

    @NCSteve: You're correct to bring up that fable. As much as I hate to say it, it looks like the Republicans simply have the votes to do this, and so they did. In the end, the real problem is that the voters continue to elect enough Republicans that they can advance their policies.

    As much as I wish to revile the Republican party, the real failure is found in the voters. The GOP ought to have become totally radioactive after GW Bush, but it is still a contender. It boggles the mind.

  • David on December 07, 2012 5:59 PM:

    I agree with Daniel Kim. The voters have repeatedly been shielded from the consequences of voting Republican. Let them now experience the true leaders they elected, good and hard. Maybe in 2014, they'll choose differently... or move away... or learn to love their cages.

  • James M on December 07, 2012 9:41 PM:

    @David on December 07, 2012 5:59 PM:

    "I agree with Daniel Kim. The voters have repeatedly been shielded from the consequences of voting Republican."

    Exactly. Some years ago I talked to an ambitious young man from Central(?) Africa in a bar in Tokyo. I asked him why his country was in such chronically bad shape. He answered, "We screwed up and we couldn't afford to. Look at them (the Japanese.)Their economy has been stagnant for over 10 years and they are still rich."

    The problem with affluence is that it gives you lots of leeway to screw up before really bad things start to happen. America is rich enough to absorb all sorts of flawed policies before people see the wolf at the door. You see examples of the same principle in big successful companies: just look at the old IBM, GM or the current Microsoft.

    Also,not even taking into account the 'What is the matter with Kansas?" paradigm, I think people instinctively grasp the concept that'power corrupts'and want to establish some counterbalance to the Democratic Party, even if they agree with most of the Democratic Party's policies. The problem is that voters currently a lack a responsible alternative to serve as the balancing force.

  • beejeez on December 07, 2012 10:04 PM:

    Wow, is that sleazy. I get that lame-duck sessions can be a good time to remedy some hard-to-solve issues, but ramming through this kind of major legislation without a thorough hearing and public debate is some ugly, indefensible shite, unprecedented, I think, in Michigan. For shame.
    Make 'em pay, Michigan workers.

  • beb on December 07, 2012 10:06 PM:

    Very polished and dishonest Right to Work began airing in Wednesday, the day the Legislature started considering this bill. Clearly this is not some last minute plan. The election is barely a month old and the R's are hard at work breaking the unions.

  • beb on December 07, 2012 10:07 PM:

    that's "right to work ads"

  • pjcamp on December 08, 2012 1:00 AM:

    What did they think they were getting when they voted Republican? Snyder didn't sneak into office. He walked right in on a pile of votes.

    Perhaps they'll start acting as if their vote matters now.