The right to work legislation would ban closed-shop unions, and allow workers to refuse to pay union dues while being covered under a collective bargaining agreement. Historically this has decimated unions and caused wage reductions in every state where it’s been tried, which is why labor leaders properly call it “right to work for less.” Governor Snyder said right to work was not on his agenda as recently as a year ago, before switching course and announcing his support last week. Subsequently, preliminary legislation passed the state legislature within a matter of hours, despite opposition from some Republicans. Because of Democratic legislative pickups, it would not have passed in the next session, so Republicans pushed it through the lame duck.
According to the readout of the meeting, the lawmakers said that “The labor-management environment has dramatically improved in recent years in Michigan.” and that “Fracturing that growing unity and creating a contentious labor-management environment will not help attract companies to come to Michigan, the legislators said.” Indeed, many businesses in heavily unionized industries have either remained neutral on right to work or come out against it.
Senator Carl Levin and most of the Democratic delegation in the House, including John Dingell, John Conyers, Sandy Levin, Gary Peters, Hansen Clark, Dave Curson and Congressman-elect Dan Kildee attended the meeting. Snyder said he would “take seriously” their concerns.
Apparently the President, appearing in Michigan today with an appearance about the fiscal slope, will also mention right to work today and his opposition to it. He has already expressed his opposition to it in a statement.
The largest newspaper in the state, the Detroit Free Press, also released a scathing editorial about Snyder’s reversal on the issue, calling it a “betrayal of voters”:
His insistence that the legislation was designed to promote the interests of unionized workers and “bring Michiganders together” was grotesquely disingenuous; even as he spoke, securitypersonnel were locking down the capital in anticipation of protests by angry unionists.
Snyder’s ostensible rationale for embracing right-to-work legislation — it was, he insisted, a matter of preserving workers’ freedom of association — was equally dishonest.
The real motive of Michigan’s right-to-work champions, as former GOP legislator Bill Ballenger ruefully observed, is “pure greed” — the determination to emasculate, once and for all, the Democratic Party’s most reliable source of financial and organizational support.
Marcy Wheeler has a roundup of other opinion pages.
I think it’s unlikely that Snyder will respond to this outcry by switching field again on a matter he clearly orchestrated. But because the final bills won’t reach his desk until later this week, there’s still time to apply pressure.