Political Animal


December 10, 2012 3:46 PM Why Michigan Republicans Had To Race To the Bottom

By Ed Kilgore

Despite some (in my mind unjustified) hopes that President Obama’s appearance in Michigan today might produce a delay in the Republican race to enact “right-to-work” legislation during a lame-duck session, all indications are that Gov. Rick Snyder will sign the law as soon as it arrives at his desk tomorrow or even today.

In looking at the reasons for this quite-literal “race to the bottom,” a lot of analysts have emphasized the rejection by Michigan voters on November 6 of a union-backed ballot initiative to put collective bargaining rights into the state constitution. And others (including sometimes PA contributor Rich Yeselson in his excellent summary of the background and implications of this development for TAP) have stressed the symbolism of this traditional union stronghold, the birthplace of the UAW, enacting such blatantly anti-labor legislation.

But there is a more practical reason for the haste, as I have suspected: Michigan Republicans were rightfully afraid they wouldn’t have the votes in the House had they taken this up as normal legislation in the next session of the legislature.

The AFC-CIO runs through the math on its Facebook page: six House Republicans who voted for this legislation will be replaced by Democrats in January. Subtracting one lame-duck Democrat who’ll be replaced by a Republicans, there’d likely be a five-vote swing if they had waited until the new session, converting a 58-52 win to a 57-53 loss.

At Slate Dave Weigel discusses the right-to-work blitz as part of a “long tail” of consequences from the 2010 Republican election, but he’s mainly talking about the control of redistricting that made it possible (and probably will in the future) for Republicans to hold down Democratic gains in 2012. In this case, however, that wasn’t enough to guarantee the success of the anti-union coup in 2013, so they had to move right now.

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.


  • Bob M on December 10, 2012 4:40 PM:

    These are the same people who don't want a free new bridge totally paid for by the Canadian (Conservative) government. What a joke!

    They support the sleazy billionaire of the present Ambassador Bridge that has holes in it. But it's private and Amurikun.


  • c u n d gulag on December 10, 2012 4:44 PM:

    The workers in Michigan needed to start a general strike today.
    They didn't.

    Tomorrow is too late.

    They missed their chance.
    Over the weekend, ALL union members in the state needed to be told to either come to the Capital to protest, or stay home. And be prepared to either protest or stay home until further notice.

    Republicans are all ratfeckers!
    Every single feckin' one of 'em.

    They learned their ratfeckin' from "The King of the Ratfecker's," Richard Nixon.
    You can't expect a ratfecker to not feck a rat. And the Republicans fecked that rat, while the feckin' was still good.
    EVERY state needs to realize that EVERY single Republican is a ratfecker, and plan accordingly.

    The only way to stop the ratfecker's from feckin' rats, is not to put the ratfecker's in a position to feck rats.

    Unfortunately, not enough voters showed up in the '10 mid-terms, so Republicans had their (hopefully, LAST) opening to feck rats, while they still feckin' could.

  • James E. Powell on December 10, 2012 5:01 PM:

    A similar analysis of the congress may explain why the corporate Democrats are so eager to forge some kind of Grand Bargain before the new congress comes in.

  • Lightwave on December 11, 2012 5:39 AM:

    There's an easy way to settle this question.

    What percentage of the "millions of new jobs" created under this administration's watch and constantly touted by the administration were in right-to-work states?

    The higher that percentage, the worse this battle will look to Americans.

    According to the Washington Post and the BLS, in the 2000-2010 decade, 3.6 million net jobs were created in right to work states. States without right to work lost 900,000 net jobs.

    Oh, and right-to-work states have better wage growth, lower unemployment, and better job growth.

    By the way, the answer is 72% of jobs in the last four years were created in right-to-work states. If you're unemployed in Michigan, you might want to ask yourself why the "recovery" that earned this President another four years passed you by, and why you voted for him.

  • Robb on December 11, 2012 7:34 AM:

    I think Snyder sold out to get his emergency manager legislation pushed through (no one even talks about that, nor about the anti-abortion laws pushed through with the anti-union law). I think he'll pay for it. He's shown himself to be duplicitous, a partisan in moderate's clothing.
    I was keeping an open mind toward him in 2014, but no more. If a chimp wins the Democratic primary, that's my candidate.

  • melopsittacus on December 11, 2012 8:17 AM:

    From the article that you link: Its the same as saying that states with names that start with the letters n through z grew faster over the past decade, said Gordon Lafer, associate professor at the University of Oregon Labor Education and Research Center. Thats actually true, but its not meaningful in policy terms.

    "Right to work"? More like right to exploit.

  • Robb on December 11, 2012 10:41 AM:

    Sorry, Lightwave, but right-wing think tank fantasies aside, there is no demonstrable correlation between RTW status and economic growth either way. It has been linked to decreased union power and decreased leverage for workers, thus decreased share of profits going to workers.

    So you guys get what you want.
    Shareholders get what they want.
    Workers lose.

    Give me old-fashioned union-busting. At least it was honest.
    Now blatantly partisan union-haters use Orwellian "right to work" crap designed to hurt the funding of unions and seem to believe they are fooling people.
    If it was working, this legislative maneuver would not have been necessary.

  • Ed Burghard on December 12, 2012 10:32 AM:

    Here is a report on unionization trends in the US - http://strengtheningbrandamerica.com/blog/2012/12/unionization-trends-in-the-u-s/