Within a matter of hours, both houses of the Michigan legislature passed right to work legislation, while arrests and lockdowns occurred inside and outside the chamber. In the end, Michigan Democrats staged a walkout to protest the closed Capitol. But eventually, the votes were taken, through a gut-and-amend process with a substitute bill that was supposed to create a commission to deal with labor disputes. The main bill then passed the House by a 58-52 vote, and the Senate 22-16.
You can see by these numbers why the Michigan GOP wanted to get this done fast, within the lame duck session, before the new legislature gets sworn in January 1. Six Republicans crossed the aisle in the state House to vote against the bill. With Democrats picking up five House seats in the election, the new configuration would not have had the votes to pass right to work.
However, if Governor Rick Snyder signs the bill – and he’s made every indication that he would – it will be very hard to dislodge. The legislature added an appropriation of state funds to the right to work bill, which eliminates the possibility of it getting overturned by referendum. But assuming it stands, Republicans still control the legislature and the Governor’s mansion in the next session, and so right to work would be in place for a couple years before unions have a chance to overturn it by retaking state government. And the longer that takes, the more battered unions will become, as the entire point of right to work is to decimate the ability for unions to function. That’s how it has played out in the other 23 states where mandatory dues have been barred for workers operating under collective bargaining agreements.
President Obama did weigh in today, opposing right to work legislation in general and specifically in Michigan. “President Obama has long opposed so-called ‘right to work’ laws and he continues to oppose them now,” said spokesman Matt Lehrich. “The President believes our economy is stronger when workers get good wages and good benefits, and he opposes attempts to roll back their rights. Michigan – and its workers’ role in the revival of the US automobile industry — is a prime example of how unions have helped build a strong middle class and a strong American economy.”
But this hardly matters, as the sneak attack on Michigan workers is almost certain to be successful. Democrats in the House put up a host of amendments that all failed, but were able to force a reconsideration of the bill. However, that’s likely to get dispensed with as a procedural matter, and the suite of bills will pass on a subsequent vote. There are separate bills for private employees and public employees that need to be reconciled and wrapped up. The hammer will probably come down in five days:
The mishmash of bills is creating head-crashing possibilities over when any of it will make it to the governor’s desk.
The quickest the Legislature can now pass the right-to-work bills through both chambers and send them on to Gov. Rick Snyder is five days from the next sitting, or session day, said Ari Adler, a spokesman for House Speaker Jase Bolger, R-Marshall. The next session day could be set for Friday, a day this weekend or Tuesday, Adler said. The five-day clock then starts after that.
Political and labor leaders have implored Snyder not to sign the bill, but he orchestrated this whole thing today, so that doesn’t seem likely to work.
A sad day in Michigan.