Political Animal


December 11, 2012 1:24 PM Simple Query

By Ed Kilgore

I’m sure I am not the first to have this insight, but it’s worth underlining: if right-to-work laws are indeed, as supporters claim, a “liberty” issue for workers who are otherwise slaves to “union bosses,” then why are Gov. Rick Snyder and Michigan GOP legislators denying these “rights” to the most esteemed workers under their purview, police officers and firefighters? Do GOPers actually despise these workers, or are their justifications for taking this step a bit dishonest?

I think we all know the answer to that question.

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.


  • c u n d gulag on December 11, 2012 1:32 PM:

    Well, in all fairness, Snyder and the Republicans can't afford to piss-off cops and firefighters.

    At least not right now.

    They still need the cops to crack some protester's skulls, and they'll need the firefighters in case some protesters break through the cordon of cops, and set fire to sh*t in government buildings.

  • Anonymous on December 11, 2012 1:37 PM:

    Yeah, c u n c gulag, but that's Ed's point -- if they were getting a wonderful new "liberty," they wouldn't be "piss[ed]-off" at all. But they clearly would be, which gives the lie to Snyder's stupid, "free to be poor" line.

  • martin on December 11, 2012 2:07 PM:

    The question now for the Firefighters and Police: Which Side Are You On?

  • ceenik on December 11, 2012 2:19 PM:

    Good point, Martin. I'm not holding my breath: police and firefighters in Wisconsin supported Walker in the recall election.

  • Geds on December 11, 2012 2:22 PM:

    This is very similar to a question I had about the Romney/Ryan Medicare "plan." If that was so great and such a winning idea, why weren't they trying to sell the people currently on Medicare (who are, by an large, the Republican base) on joining right up?

  • AndThenThere'sThat on December 11, 2012 2:22 PM:

    Republicans know how to play the game, just ask Gov. Scott "divide and conquer" Walker.

    Not to worry if your a teahadist, Police and Fire unions will be next. Of course for those unions the preferred playbook won't be about "worker liberty", it will be about "public safety concerns"(See TSA). Yet another golden oldie Republican strategy.

  • boatboy_srq on December 11, 2012 2:41 PM:

    @CUND: it would be poetic justice, wouldn't it, if the PD refused to step in and "control" the protests, and the FD let the GOP reps' offices burn, wouldn't it?

    It's 2012. We've been scr#w#d enough. I think a little "ungratefulness" is owed the Teahad.

  • RT on December 11, 2012 4:00 PM:

    @boatboy_srq: A regime falls when the security apparatus refuses to defend it. Like in Egypt.

    One can only hope.

  • Keith M Ellis on December 11, 2012 10:10 PM:

    As much as I want to think so, I'm not sure that this is a fair a charge of hypocrisy as it seems to be.

    An example that comes to mind on our side of the aisle is Obamacare and Medicare reform. Everyone understands that controlling costs will require some limitation on care, almost by definition. We want to do this in a way that mostly reduces waste and increases the overall level of health care, so we are pretty sure that there's nothing "death panel"-ish about what's necessary. Even so, the fact remains that one person's waste is very often some patient's expected treatment. We all remember that people almost universally hate HMOs — not because they didn't end up controlling costs as much as they were intended to, but simply and exclusively because patients don't like constraints on their care. Controlling costs requires constraints, there's no avoiding this. But liberals do everything they can to avoid talking about this, to de-emphasize it, to say that it's a benefit because what this will do is eliminate waste. This is a necessary political messaging. I don't blame anyone for avoiding to admitting to this, because Americans flat-out refuse to accept that it doesn't make sense for them to "have a right" to a $2,000 diagnostic procedure for a sprained ankle.

    All that said, I agree with Ed and others here that for the vast majority of those pushing "right to work", it's really all about the capitalists and their interests. Concerns about individual liberties of workers is a facade. But for a lot of rank-and-file conservatives, workers themselves, the "rights" argument makes sense. Just as all sorts of other arguments make sense to them that are, in fact, inimical to their interests (a la "What's the Matter with Kansas?").

  • dr2chase on December 12, 2012 9:25 AM:

    It's also a flat-out lie -- they did not add any new right, they removed the right to negotiate and agree to a particular contract. Employers always had the right to refuse to agree to such a contract, if they thought they could successfully run a business that way. A right was removed. No honest libertarian (is that the empty set?) can defend this.

    And don't go all "but in practice, unions..." on me. Once you start to worry about outcomes, we get to look at outcomes -- declining union strength leads to increased inequality and an unstable crap economy for most people. Who wants that?

  • aaCoobiquab on April 16, 2013 12:58 PM: