Worker Freedom Comes to Michigan?
By Matthew Vadum
As Michigan lawmakers prepare to strike a blow for worker freedom, organized labor is resorting to its old playbook in an effort to prevent the state from adopting “right to work” legislation” aimed at restoring the Rust Belt state’s economic vitality.
True to form, the entrenched forces of organized labor that have been gnawing away at Michigan for decades are throwing a big, carefully stage-managed, media-saturated temper tantrum.
Around the state capitol in Lansing, police are gearing up for massive demonstrations, beefing up their presence today as the Michigan Legislature meets to grant final approval to right to work legislation.
“It’s an attack on working families, and we’re gonna be there. We’re not gonna stand for it,” Bernie Ricke, president of the United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 600, was quoted saying.
President Obama dropped by Michigan yesterday taking time out from his busy golf schedule to rally labor commissars at the Daimler Detroit Diesel plant.
“I’ve just got to say this — what we shouldn’t be doing is trying to take away your rights to bargain for better wages,” Obama said, misrepresenting right to work laws, which he said “don’t have anything to do with economics.”
Such laws “have everything to do with politics,” the president said. “What they’re really talking about is they’re giving you the right to work for less money.”
Gov. Rick Snyder (R) said he supports right to work because it’s the right thing to do. “I feel this is solving an issue for Michigan workers. We have hardworking people in Michigan and this is about giving workers choice,” he said last week around the time he announced his support for the pending right to work legislation.
A right to work law would benefit the 576,000 Michigan workers who are currently forced to pay union dues as a condition of employment, according to the National Right to Work Committee, whose motto is “No one should be forced to pay tribute to a union in order to get or keep a job.”
“Study after study shows that the 23 states that have passed Right to Work laws have a huge advantage in creating jobs and expanding their economies. Because independent-minded employees have the power to penalize Big Labor’s irresponsible class-warfare tactics by resigning from a union and withholding their dues, in Right to Work states union bosses must rein in their militancy.”
Right to work laws weaken unions’ monopolistic control of local labor markets and protect workers’ ability to control their own destinies, free from pressure applied by union bosses and their hired goons.
“We’re trying to create an experiment here in Michigan where we have labor freedom which is defined as where unions are as free to make their case as workers are to make their choice,” said Mike Shirkey, a Republican state lawmaker in the Wolverine State.
Big Labor is making noise and attempting to disrupt the legislative process in Lansing, just as it did last year in Madison, Wisconsin when that state’s reform-minded governor asked government union members to contribute a small percentage towards the costs of their pension plans and health care benefits. Gov. Scott Walker was relentlessly demonized by the Left as a dangerous tyrant who sought to murder democracy. Snyder may be more difficult to vilify in part because he’s less conservative than Walker.
Last year tens of thousands of bussed-in demonstrators and union thugs wreaked havoc in Madison. Labor activists didn’t hesitate to get in their adversaries’ faces. When they surrounded the capitol building in an attempt to shut down the state government, union goons, members of President Obama’s pressure group Organizing for America, and paid rent-a-mobs chanted, “This is what democracy looks like.” Teachers phoned in sick en masse, shutting down schools. At rallies, medical doctors ignored their professional ethics and handed out sick notes to anyone who asked, ill or not.
Ultimately, Walker prevailed, beating back a union-initiated recall election in June 2012.
Unions in Michigan are trying to replicate the failed Wisconsin strategy, hoping it succeeds this time, but they are at a major disadvantage. In Michigan, labor has been caught by surprise. It was only a few days ago that Gov. Snyder indicated he would be willing to sign a right to work bill into law.
If the bill is enacted, Michigan would become the 24th right to work state. Passage of the law would also constitute a powerful psychological blow against organized labor because the Great Lakes region is the cradle of the labor movement.
If unions lose this round, they vow to continue fighting, launching legal challenges and campaigning against GOP lawmakers.