However, a spokeswoman for Assembly Speaker-elect Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said Assembly Republicans don’t have plans to restrict private-sector unions in Wisconsin when the Legislature reconvenes Jan. 7.
“Right-to-work legislation is not something that is being pursued this session in the Assembly,” Vos spokeswoman Kit Beyer said. “That folder has been put away.”
It’s important not to give Walker and co. too much credit: Walker’s refusal to comment on right-to-work is a step backwards from his previous pledge to “do everything in my power to make sure [right to work] isn’t there.” Michigan Governor Rick Snyder (R) similarly opposed right-to-work before ramrodding it through the current lame duck session.
Protesters are marching on the Michigan Capitol Building today, where lawmakers are expected to approve the final version of a so-called “right-to-work” law. Gov. Rick Snyder (R-MI), who had previously said he wouldn’t pursue such anti-union legislation, has indicated he’ll sign the measure.
During an interview on WWJ Newsradio 950, Snyder claimed that the law is necessary in order to boost Michigan’s economy. “This is about more and better jobs coming to Michigan,” he said:
“Michigan is not unique in doing this. Twenty-three other states are right-to-work states and they’ve been fast growing, in terms of their economic growth in relationship to other states… If you look at Indiana, Indiana’s had at least 30 companies accept offers from the Indiana Academic Development Corporation since they did this in February that are bringing thousands of good jobs to Indiana. And we could use those jobs here in Michigan,” he said.
And more jobs in Michigan is something Snyder said will benefit all the state’s residents.
“This is about more and better jobs coming to Michigan because a lot of companies do look at this as a major factor in their analysis. We’ll then be more competitive as a state and that’s good for all of us. It’s good for workers and good for unions, because it gives them more of an opportunity to grow themselves,” he said.
There is really no economic evidence showing “right-to-work” laws leading to more jobs or better outcomes for workers. This is seen plainly in analysis looking at the impact of such laws in Oklahoma, the only other state to adopt a right-to-work law in the past 25 years prior to Indiana doing so in 2011 and Michigan’s current legislative move. In fact, economists Sylvia Allegretto and Gordon Lafer of the University of California, Berkeley and University of Oregon, respectively, show that since Oklahoma’s law passed in 2001, manufacturing employment and business relocations to the state actually reversed their “pre-right-to-work” increases and began to fall—and this at a time when Oklahoma’s extractive industry economies were booming. To the contrary, these researchers show that right-to-work laws have failed to increase employment growth in the 22 states that have adopted them.
Last week, Michigan Republicans swiftly and unexpectedly approved so-called “right to work” legislation, backtracking on a commitment made by Gov. Rick Snyder (R-MI). Supporters of the effort claim that it is necessary to keep Michigan economically competitive with nearby states, such as Indiana, that have approved similar measures.
However, as the Center for American Progress’ David Madland and Nick Bunker noted, weakening labor unions via right-to-work won’t make Michigan economically stronger — it will just continue the recent hollowing out of the state’s middle class:
Over the past several decades, unions in Michigan have weakened and the middle class has been hollowed out—a trend that would significantly worsen if right-to-work became law. As Figure 1 shows, Michigan’s middle class earned 53.6 percent of the state’s income in 1979, a year when over 37 percent of the state’s workers were in unions. Today less than 18 percent of Michigan’s workers are unionized, and the middle class receives only 47 percent of the state’s income.
The Economic Policy Institute has found that “right-to-work laws cost all workers, union and otherwise, $1,500 a year in wages and that they make it harder for workers to obtain pensions and health coverage.” Workers in right-to-work states “are also significantly less likely to receive employer-provided health insurance and pensions.” Finally, directly undercutting Republican justification for passing such laws, researchers found that right-to-work laws “have not succeeded in boosting employment growth in the states that have adopted them.”
The Detroit Free-Press, which endorsed Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) in his 2010 campaign and has generally supported him since, blasted his decision to ram through a union-busting “right-to-work” law in a lame-duck legislative session. At Snyder’s urging, the state House and Senate each passed versions of the law this week. The editorial board slammed his move as a “failure of leadership” and observed that his “about-face” amounted to a betrayal of Michigan’s voters.
The paper noted that while it “trusted Snyder’s judgment,” that trust “has now been betrayed.” It expressed disappointment on behalf of independents who thought Snyder more independent and visionary “than partisan apparatchiks like Wisconsin’s Scott Walker or Florida’s Rick Scott,” adding:
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, security personnel 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.
While Snyder and the Republicans in the legislature claim “right-to-work” is good for the state’s economy, studies show such legislation can cost workers money. The Economic Policy Institute found that “right-to-work” laws cost all workers, union and otherwise, $1,500 a year in wages and that they make it harder for workers to obtain pensions and health coverage. “If benefits coverage in non-right-to-work states were lowered to the levels of states with these laws, 2 million fewer workers would receive health insurance and 3.8 million fewer workers would receive pensions nationwide,” David Madland and Karla Walter from the Center for American Progress wrote earlier this year.
Earlier this year, Snyder told a U.S. House committee, “Right-to-work is an issue that is a very divisive issue… we have many problems in Michigan that are much more pressing… I don’t believe it is appropriate in Michigan during 2012.”
But Thursday, Snyder announced he had changed his mind and, a day later, both chambers of the Republican-controlled legislature rammed through similar anti-union bills with little debate.
Michigan workers protest outside the state capitol Thursday
On Thursday, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) backtracked on his commitment to avoid so-called “right-to-work” legislation and by the end of the day, both the Michigan House of Representatives and the Michigan state Senate had introduced and passed separate bills aimed at the state’s union workforce.
Michigan Republicans claim the state needs the measure to stay competitive with Indiana, where lawmakers passed “right-to-work” last year. In reality, though, such laws have negative effects on workers and little effect on economic growth. Here is what you need to know about the state GOP’s campaign:
THE LEGISLATION: Both the state House and state Senate passed legislation on Thursday that prohibits private sector unions from requiring members to pay dues. The Senate followed suit and passed a different but similar measure that extends the same prohibition for public sector unions, though firefighters and police officers are exempt. The state House included a budget appropriations provision that is intended to prevent the state’s voters from being able to legally challenge the law through a ballot referendum. Due to state law, both houses are prevented from voting on legislation passed by the other for five days, so neither will be able to fully pass the legislation until Tuesday at the earliest.
THE PROCESS: Union leaders and Democrats claim that Republicans are pushing the legislation through in the lame-duck session to hide the intent of the measures from citizens, and because the legislation would face more trouble after the new House convenes in January. Michigan Republicans hold a 63-47 advantage in the state House, but Democrats narrowed the GOP majority to just eight seats in November. Six Republicans opposed the House measure; five of them won re-election in 2012 (the sixth retired). And Michigan Republicans have good reason to pursue the laws without public debate. Though the state’s voters are evenly split on whether it should become a right-to-work state, 78 percent of voters said the legislature “should focus on issues like creating jobs and improving education, and not changing state laws or rules that would impact unions or make further changes in collective bargaining.”
THE CONSEQUENCES: While Snyder and Republicans pitched “right-to-work” as a pro-worker move aimed at improving the economy, studies show such legislation can cost workers money. The Economic Policy Institute found that right-to-work laws cost all workers, union and otherwise, $1,500 a year in wages and that they make it harder for workers to obtain pensions and health coverage. “If benefits coverage in non-right-to-work states were lowered to the levels of states with these laws, 2 million fewer workers would receive health insurance and 3.8 million fewer workers would receive pensions nationwide,” David Madland and Karla Walter from the Center for American Progress wrote earlier this year. The decreases in union membership that result from right-to-work laws have a significant impact on the middle class and research “shows that there is no relationship between right-to-work laws and state unemployment rates, state per capita income, or state job growth,” EPI wrote in a recent report about Michigan. “Right-to-work” laws also decrease worker safety and can hurt small businesses.
Union leaders are, of course, aghast at Snyder and the GOP’s right-to-work push. “In a state that gave birth to the modern U.S. labor movement, it is unconscionable that Michigan legislators would seek to drive down living standards for Michigan workers and families with a law that will do nothing to improve either the state’s economic climate or the quality of life for Michigan residents,” RoseAnn DeMoro, the executive director of National Nurses United, said in a statement.
Michigan’s House of Representatives passed the “right-to-work” law for public sector unions, 58-51. It is expected to vote on similar legislation applying to private sector unions later today. Gov. Rick Snyder (R) is also expected to sign the legislation into law today.
Indiana workers protest passage of "right-to-work" law in January
After insisting all last year that an anti-labor “right-to-work” law was not on his agenda, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) has changed his mind. This morning, he called on the state legislature to introduce and pass so-called “right-to-work” legislation and promised to sign it should it reach his desk.
Snyder was among the Midwestern Republican governors who leveled an assault on unions in 2011, but right-to-work, which effectively undermines union activities by allowing non-union workers to free-ride on union-negotiated contracts, is a new front in that fight. Indiana passed right-to-work legislation earlier this year, and by following suit, Michigan can remain competitive with its neighbor while also becoming a better place for workers, Snyder claimed in a video posted by The Detroit News:
SNYDER: There are two main reasons I’m asking the Michigan legislature to move forward on a package of bills on workplace fairness and equity, and I’m going to sign those bills when they come to my desk. First, it’s about being pro-worker. It’s about hard-working Michiganders having the freedom to choose who they associate with. [...]
The second one is about being more healthy in Michigan, in terms of our economy. If you look at the numbers, the last two years we’ve done well. We added 140,000 jobs. We’re forecasted to add 110,000 jobs over the next two years. [...] I want to see that rate go up, to even be bigger and better. And when I looked at Indiana, here’s an opportunity to see that pace increase.
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 orkers hated the new laws so much that they were repealed just eight years later.
At least eight protesters have been arrested outside the Michigan state capitol during protests of the right-to-work legislation, and police have used pepper spray on other protesters who tried to entire the capitol, the Lansing State-Journal reported. The capitol is currently in “exit-only” mode, according to state police.
Michigan Rep. Gary Peters (D) slammed Snyder’s push for right-to-work in a statement on his web site, saying: “Governor Snyder campaigned on a promise of unity, but instead he’s ushering in an era of divisiveness across Michigan by launching an attack against working families. … Just like Scott Walker, Governor Snyder’s flip flop is clearly a calculated decision to put his own political ambitions ahead of the families he’s supposed to be working for. I stand in solidarity with Michigan’s working families, and we will never stop fighting against this unprecedented and reckless action by Governor Snyder.”
“President Obama has long opposed so-called ‘right to work’ laws and he continues to oppose them now,” said White House spokesperson 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.”
The Romney campaign has aggressively campaigned against President Obama’s recent changes to the welfare program, alleging that he “gutted” welfare, eliminating the work requirement so that “they just send you your check.” In fact, the administration’s welfare waiver initiative would strengthen work requirements by simply empowering states to innovate on new strategies.
And it turns out that at least one Republican governor, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, supports Obama’s policy change. On MSNBC Tuesday afternoon, Tom Brokaw pressed Snyder on how he felt about the increased flexibility Obama gave the states. Snyder’s response was surprisingly positive as he sat in the GOP convention hall waiting to choose Mitt Romney as his party’s nominee:
BROKAW: [Governors] want more flexibility in how they administer these welfare programs. He’s really responding to what they asked for. So my question to you is, has what President Obama done for welfare in the state of Michigan, has that given you more flexibility and are you happy with this policy in that regard?
SNYDER: It’s still relatively new, this change in policy, so we are still fully analyzing it. The concept of more flexibility to governors is a good thing, but I think there should be performance metrics. We should be held accountable for performance but flexibility on how to do it.
Before it became a policy of the Obama administration, Republicans pushed for more state authority over the welfare program. Additionally, Romney himself is advocating for more state flexibility on other policies, like food stamps, where he would like to block grant money to the states.
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) and Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney haven’t always seen eye to eye on the rescue of the auto industry that saved hundreds of thousands of American jobs. Romney has held several positions on the topic: he wrote an editorial calling on the government to “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt” before the rescue occurred, then attempted to claim credit for the rescue after it succeeded. He then re-upped his opposition in a Let Detroit Go Bankrupt 2.0 editorial ahead of Michigan’s Republican primary this year.
Throughout it all, Snyder’s opposing view has been clear. Like other Michigan Republicans, Snyder supported the rescue and has applauded its success. Today, though, Snyder dismissed Romney’s opposition, telling Fox News host Neil Cavuto the rescue is “history”:
SNYDER: The auto bailout issue, it’s overblown in my view. It was a very important thing, it got done, it could have been done otherwise. The main point with that is, it got done, it’s history –
CAVUTO: But Mitt Romney was against it. Maybe for all the right reasons, but in a state like yours, could it hurt him?
SNYDER: He talked about different ways to do it, and the point is, it could have been done different ways. But that’s all history. It’s behind us.
Snyder has ignored his differences with Romney on the issue before. When he endorsed Romney before the state’s primary, he didn’t mention Romney’s opposition to the rescue or the jobs it would have cost Michigan and the country.
Romney contends that the private sector should have stepped in and saved General Motors and Chrysler, pushing them toward the managed bankruptcy they eventually went through. But that position ignores the simple fact that government stepped in precisely because the private sector refused to do so. Other Republicans, auto industry insiders, and reporters who covered the auto industry have all dismissed Romney’s view as “reckless,” “dishonest,” and “pure fantasy.”
GOP Governor To Partner With Federal Government To Set Up Insurance Exchange |
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) has given up hopes of setting up a state-run health insurance exchange in his state after members of his party repeatedly blocked plans for the program in the legislature, according to The Detroit News. Snyder’s spokeswoman Sara Wurfel said he is working to set up a joint program with the federal government instead. “He would have preferred a state-based exchange so Michigan can control its own destination instead of the feds being in driver’s seat,” Wurfel told The Detroit News. The Affordable Care Act requires every state to set up an insurance exchange, and if a state does not have one ready by deadline, then the federal government will set it up.