Last Minute Attack on Unions in Michigan
After sweeping into complete control of state government for the first time in almost a decade following the 2010 election, Michigan Republicans wasted little time before pursuing numerous pieces of right-wing legislation, including
- An anti-democratic “emergency manager” law that let appointed managers completely take away control of municipal governments from elected representatives*
- An anti-LGBT law prohibiting the state from providing benefits to the partners of unmarried workers
- A bill forcing unemployed workers off unemployment insurance
- A $1.7 BILLION corporate tax cut (shockingly, this is actually less than the $2.1 BILLION tax cut Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder wanted)
- Billions in cuts to future retirement and health care commitments
- A tax increase on the working poor
- An end to the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit
- A cut in funding for school districts of eight to ten percent,
- A cut in aid for 11,000 low-income families and nearly 30,000 children,
- A regressive increase in personal taxes
- A tax credit for fetuses as a back door means of “personhood,” despite having previously eliminated the state’s tax credit for actual living, breathing children
- The nation’s most radical anti-abortion bill, which the legislature is rushing to pass right now
*The emergency manager law was repealed via referendum by Michigan voters last month; however, the Michigan legislature is rushing to pass a new version as we speak.
Despite pursuing this extreme agenda and other anti-union measures, Republicans had chosen to set aside one of the right’s favorite goals: a so-called “right to work” anti-union law. Indiana Republicans passed such a law in 2011 and well-known fights over anti-union measures occurred in numerous other states including Ohio and Wisconsin. For his part, Snyder even went so far as to say that right to work legislation was “divisive” and not “appropriate for Michigan in 2012.”
Mere months after making those comments, Snyder has flip-flopped and endorsed a last-minute, lame duck effort by Republicans in the legislature to push through a right to work bill. Worse yet, Republicans are including a provision in the bill that will make it impossible for voters to repeal the measure via referendum.
ThinkProgress’ Travis Waldron explains why such laws are accurately referred to as “right to work for less” by unions and pro-worker groups:
Though Snyder refers to his agenda as “pro-worker,” a quick glance at studies of “right-to-work” legislation paints a different picture. According to the Economic Policy Institute, right-to-work laws have virtually no impact on job growth and have a negative impact on both union and nonunion workers, reducing wages by up to $1,500 a year. A Ball State University study conducted during Indiana’s push to pass right-to-work found that “no impact is likely” for job growth or wages in the manufacturing sector. Another EPI study suggests that right-to-work laws had a negative impact on Oklahoma’s economy and that right-to-work is “is ineffective as a strategy for increasing a state’s employment.”
The right-to-work experiment failed miserably the last time it was tried in the Midwest. Indiana originally passed right-to-work laws in 1957, but workers hated the new laws so much that they were repealed just eight years later.
Check out this recent Center for American Progress report for more on why right to work is wrong.
It should come as no surprise that the Koch Brothers and their Americans for Prosperity front group are heavily involved in this anti-union push, just as they have been in other states like Wisconsin, Indiana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and Ohio.
Unfortunately, it appears that the measure could become law within the next few days. A bill narrowly cleared the Michigan House just within the past hour. Since several Republicans opposed the measure and Democrats actually picked up seats in the Michigan House in last month’s elections, it’s clear why Republicans are rushing this and other controversial measures through at the last minute during a lame duck session.
The situation on the ground is evolving very quickly and the state capitol in Lansing has been the site of large protests today. Earlier today, the doors of the capitol were locked in order to prevent demonstrators from entering; however, an injunction ordering the capitol to be re-opened. A few demonstrators able to make it inside were arrested and pepper-sprayed after they attempted to enter the senate chamber.
Stay tuned to ThinkProgress for the latest updates.
BOTTOM LINE: Stronger unions mean a stronger middle class, so right-wing attacks on unions are really just attacks on all working and middle-class Americans.
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