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"Right to Work" comes to Michigan, the State the Unions Built

 

Last week Michigan's Republican-majority legislature, with no committee meetings, no floor debate, in a rush to get this done before January when their control lessens, voted to add my beautiful state to a growing number of states--23 of them so far--that have been downgraded to what some have been led to believe is an assurance of a "Right-to-Work".
 

http://wearethepeoplemichigan.com/

Anyone coming from another country would think, reading that, that it could only be a good thing.  Everybody should have the right to work, after all, and what kind of crazy country needs to legislate that?
But, as usual, the proponents have chosen a reasonable-sounding misnomer in order to cover the cruelty behind their crass actions.

What it really means is that everybody in my state will, in fact, have the right to work (as does everyone of working age on the planet), but any other right--even those that others before them have fought long and hard for--equitable wages, benefits, pensions, work-place safety, grievance representation--will be left outside the door.  Those rights will no longer be rights unless the employer says they are.

State Right-to-Work laws (known as "right-to-work-for-less laws" in our circles) give approval to open shops, where union participation and the collection of union dues is voluntary, not compulsory--a simple step geared to defund and thus defang union activity.

To workers who have been convinced that the company will take care of them, who see progress in not having to pay union dues, who encourage Right-to-Work laws because it's not fair that union members make more money than they do, what is happening in Michigan and the 23 other states is a liberation of sorts.  To others (like me) it's more like tumbling downhill after years of working our way up the mountain.

The people proposing Michigan's move to Right-to-Work understand that money is power--and why wouldn't they?  Millions of Big Money dollars went into the campaign to make this happen. There's a reason these people hate unions.  Unions attempt to give a portion of power to the working class by way of equitable wages and fairness in the workplace.  All of that, of course, costs employers more money, which, if you follow their logic, is a really mean thing for their ungrateful worker-bees to try to do.

The truth is, few businesses are one-person operations.  Employers need employees, and employees have a right to expect to be paid well for their efforts.  The truth is, wages and benefits have stagnated in this country since the 1970s, and I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who would argue that it coincided with the drastic drop in union activity.

The truth is, workers need representation and the ability to collectively bargain for wages, benefits and workplace rights.

The truth is, we are stronger as a country when workplaces are seen as a shared venture, with everyone profiting.  (Sometimes, it's true, the ones at the top have to be dragged into that argument, but the end result is always the same:  When everybody profits, the country profits.)

So let's look at what others are saying about this:

Media Matters looks at the myths the Wall Street Journal is pushing about Right-to-Work.

Chris Savage at Eclectablog, the go-to blog for understanding Michigan political shenanigans, guest-posts about RTW on the AFL-CIO website.

Stephen Henderson,  Detroit Free Press Editorial Page editor, says, "Do the Math". it never works.

Rep. Brandon Dillon (D-Grand Rapids) speaks out against the RTW bill, calling it "the freedom to freeload"   (FYI: Grand Rapids is the grand bastion of conservatism in our state.  We like it when Dems are represented there.)

Union activist Jamie Sanderson, from Georgetown, SC, looks at Michigan's RTW battle through other eyes.

Andy Kroll at Mother Jones weighs in, calling it a "Scott Walker showdown", after the Wisconsin governor's efforts to kill public unions in that state.

And finally, Kenneth Quinnell over at the AFL-CIO blog exposes the Koch Brothers connection with the flurry of the "right to work for less" laws in Michigan and other Republican-led states. 

This battle isn't over.   

I know.  We say that all the time. Well, here it is again.

As long as there are people left to fight, battles are never over, and this one, the battle for worker rights in Michigan, the birthplace of the modern union movement, is a landmark battle worth fighting.  Big money is prepared to fight us to the end.  They want to win.  They think they will win.  But they've underestimated us before, and the truth is, it didn't hurt them in the least when workers won.

We didn't become a great country by caving to big interests.  We became a great country by working together to build a strong and expanding middle class.  And we did it because we recognized the value and worth of laborers.

And when we didn't any longer, the truth is, our great country declined.

(Cross-posted at Ramona's Voices)

This is a bloody shame, Ramona.

I already addressed our wonderful situation in Minnesota which came very close to union Armageddon as well as almost every important issue a state can face.

But if people keep voting for repubs on the state level and voting for dems on the Federal level things will just get worse. I have no idea what these people are thinking although gerrymandering comes into play of course.

The repubs on the state level will continue to attack the people's right to vote which is really what this union issue is all about.

Like you say, the fight continues.

  Some may say that as a matter of individual liberty, people should be allowed to not join unions.

My Frank Capra-esque ending would be that despite Right to Work laws, union membership went up ... and the more I think about it, the more I like the idea.  I mean, the assumption by Republicans and the Koch Brothers, et al is that Right to Work laws would kill the unions... What if that assumption proved not to be true?  Wouldn't that be the best revenge?  Perhaps the unions, instead of concentrating their fight in challenging the law, should focus on explaining and showing why being a union member is so much better than not being one and then let the public vote to for the unions, rather than against the Right to Work laws ... Just a thought.

You hit something in me!

In Mississippi it might be different.

But are the Northern folks gonna fall for this?

A billion dollars went into this last election from folks engaging the internet.

If the union men and women want some salvation; work for it!

This is a good comment.

So I hereby render unto Smith the Dayly Line of the Day Award for this here Dagblog Site; given to all of him from all of me!

THIS IS IMPORTANT.

Unions as a paradigm? or a model? need to change with the times!

And a good thought at that.  But how much more explaining has to be done?  They're fighting against factions that have already convinced millions that unions have had their day and are no longer necessary, all evidence to the contrary.

I frankly don't know how to combat that.  I see the unions putting themselves out there, trying to convince workers that they need representation, they need collective bargaining, but they're not getting through.

In the Capra film, there would be a happy ending.  In real life, this is but one more nail in labor's coffin.

 

If unions are so great, why do they need to force workers to accept their "representation"?  And what does it say about union's views of workers, that their best argument against Right to Work is that too many workers will "freeload" if given the choice about paying union dues?

Exactly my point.  Unions should be able to make their case based on the merits.  Fighting the law makes it appear that the critics are right and that unions can't compete when workers are given a choice.

 

I think what you and Anonymous are missing is that the unions don't force themselves into closed shops, they're voted in.  Company employees have to vote on whether a union can come in to represent them.  If the majority vote them in, then the agreement is that all employees will be represented and all will pay union dues.  There's no other way for the unions to have the kind of power they'll need to represent the employees effectively.

The reason the Chamber of Commerce and the manufacturers associations work so hard to turn pro-labor states like Michigan, Wisconsin and Indiana into RTW states is because the PR advantages are priceless.  Up to now the northern, industrial states have been free from the powerlessness that comes with Right to Work.  It was almost impossible to imagine that these states would ever go the way of the dismal south when it came to lower wages and fewer worker rights and protections. 

The Koch Brothers, ALEC, and Michigan's Mackinac Center worked hard to make this happen and much of their efforts centered on just your arguments:  Why should anybody be forced to pay union dues or join a union if they don't want to?  The unions are too pushy, they're too greedy, they're trying to take worker rights away.

Looks like it worked, and here we are.  Never mind that all evidence shows that workers in Right to Work states do not and never have benefited from all that "freedom".

I see your point.  I guess I just don't see the PR advantage of RTW laws to be all that great in today's reality.  I think it was a huge advantage for Conservatives in the 1980's, when the "Greedy unions" meme of Ronald Reagan was devastating ... mostly because there was a big enough sliver of truth in it to be swallowed whole.  

But after 30+ years of employers making obscene profits, often on the backs of their employees, not so much.  The 21st century, where salaries for almost everyone in what used to be called the middle class, have been either stagnant or decreasing should be fertile ground for a smart, well-articulated union message that doesn't try to over-reach..

 

It's not that the union leaders aren't talking, it's that apparently nobody's listening.

Leo Gerard, president of the United Steelworker's Union, is out there making the case all the time. He's a good man, passionately committed to helping America's workers get out of this hole.

Richard Trumka, head of the AFL-CIO, is out there all the time, trying to keep it real for the poor and middle class, the ones most affected by our economy's downturn.

UAW president Bob King may not be as "out there" as Gerard and Trumka, but he lets his voice be heard when it's necessary.

Add to their voices a multitude of union leaders all singing the same songs and I don't see how much more you can expect of them

Over-reach?  How could anything be over-reach in this environment?  Again, it sounds like buzzwords by union haters, telling them to just shut the hell up.  I'm glad Walter Reuther and other like him weren't turned back by people who accused them of wanting too much too fast--or of not articulating their demands (demands, not wishes) well enough.

The PR advantage isn't in the RTW laws, it's in the perception that they've broken the unions.  The weaker the unions the less support from all areas.  Workers will think the unions can't do anything for them so why bother, and the ones looking to exploit workers will be happy as hell that once again the unions lost.

So goodbye unions.

New York's laws seem to make a certain amount of sense in this regard.  If you enter a unionized profession, you can be forced to pay dues, to the extent that you are represented by collective bargaining.  But you can, if it suits you, opt out of the union's political activity and you can refuse to pay the portion of dues that the union uses for political purposes.

This relates to a point I have discussed at length with a hard core Republican friend.  He thinks it is wrong that unions have the political power that they do. He is against anything "union" and so he objects to union money going to campaign contributions, which money as you note comes out of a specified parts of the members dues, the part designated to the union's PAC. In my union experience in Texas, and I always assumed it to be the case in all states, that part of the member's dues could be set at whatever rate the member chose and it was clear that it was money allocated by the member to be used by the union to buy politicians. Union leaders begged members for bigger commitments to their PAC but could not force them. My friend would then go on to argue against my stand that if I invest in a company the management has been given no right to use a portion of my investment to buy the soul of a politician. It is not enough that CEO's that make millions and pay a lower tax rate than me can contribute as much as they choose to, they should also be be able to confiscate some portion of my investment money to give to the candidate of THEIR choice which is almost certainly not the one I would choose to give MY money to.

I don't see it as "buying" politicians, I see it as supporting politicians who will work for the workers.

It's always interesting to me that nobody is offended by big business's support groups and the dues they pay in order to belong, but let the lowly worker want that same kind of support and all hell breaks loose.

I really don't get how people can look at our system and conclude that the problem is that workers have too much power over politicians.  I, for one, am tired of being pushed around by those fat cat teachers, fire fighters, transit workers and machinists.

This sounds like a communism.

Now I aint sayin' you are a communism.

I am just sayin' that you-all sound like a communism.

the end

Sounds ta me like common sense.  And common sense is for commernists!

(Sarcasm alert ...) Well sure, the whole problem with public education, and the reason we desperately need to privatize education, is the all-powerful, evil teacher's union.  Want proof?  Albert Shanker, a one-time head of the teacher's union, had an atomic bomb ... and started a nuclear war ...    So I guess, in fairness, it's about time the poor, put-upon people who so graciously let us work for them, get some fair treatment for a change.  

 

 

 

 

Have you ever wondered why the once mighty unions never used their political and financial clout to acquire a significant enough ownership in major companies to influence wages and benefits from the inside?  For example, why did the UAW wait until 2011 when their influence was waning to seek seats on GM, Ford and Chrysler boards?  

More to the point, why did they not use their financial strength to increase their share holdings in these companies back when they needed their first bailout back in the 70s and again more recently.  With a big enough ownership stake, they could have had more than one seat on each board as well as significant influence on management.

Why did they, labor, choose confrontation and coercion to wring concessions from capital over beating them at their own game?

Gee, I don't know.  Maybe because their role is to represent workers and not seek to own shares of the companies where workers are employed? 

The UAW, AFL-CIO and the Steelworkers unions, for example, represent workers in many different companies.  What would be the advantage to spending worker dues on single company shares?

They shouldn't have to "beat them at their own game" in order to "wring concessions" from them.  They should stand their ground--confront--based on equity and fairness.  Their strength is in their ability to represent the employees and bargain for wages, benefits and rights.  Becoming a part of the company would only undermine those efforts.

I, frankly, don't see that happening.  I would be sorely disappointed in them if they did go that route.

I did try but I guess I should have tried harder not to inflame.  

I was not suggesting the unions use all their resources to buy one whole company.  The automakers were and are public companies and it is not as if the unions you mentioned do not already have investment divisions who own a sizeable amount of their stocks, among other securities  Some times controlling interest in a troubled company can be had with as little as 5-10% ownership.  Why not seize the opportunity of hard times and low share prices gain a greater degree of control over management?  

 

Didn't mean to snarl, Emma.  It was those words "confrontation" and "coercion" that did it, I guess.  I don't see bargaining as "confrontation".  and I don't know where "coercion" fits in. 

But I do value your opinion, even when I don't necessarily agree. smiley

It's an interesting topic.  And, it's been tried.  , just below, talks about some examples.  United Airlines is another.  I suspect, unfortunately, that employee ownership or board representation doesn't solve everything because, at a certain point, there is a real tension between the needs and desires of owners and labor (and customers, for that matter).

If you work for a company has or that wants to establish an ESOP, beware.  It is highly likely that current inside owners are looking to cash out.

 

That's a really interesting point.  If the owners can't sell to a competitor or investment fund, selling to the employees, especially over time in a managed way, definitely serves their interest.

Now, "the owners looking to cash out" doesn't necessarily mean the business doesn't have a future. It could be a personal decision or a need for eventual liquidity or, in many cases, for estate planning purposes (the kids say they'd prefer cash to the business).  But there is a "they sold, you bought" element to this.  The owners obviously want to sell at a premium.  Whether or not the business is worth it, in the long run, is always an open question.

Yes.... and why I said beware and not avoid.  Whether it makes sense depends on many factors.  Still think employee ownership of public shares trumps private shares.  Easier, maybe truer, valuations and more liquidity.

 

The tension between labor and management never goes away.  It's expected on both sides.  Whenever labor capitulates, expecting some sort of compromise, it's a sign from the big guys that they're dealing with weaklings and the discussion is over.

Whenever management capitulates, hell freezes over.

 

Almost reminds me of Democrats and Republicans...

I know that URW sat on boards of several Rubber Co in the 1970's. All this has to do with gutting Labor Laws both on Federal level and State level. Corporations are like bad children and don't think they should be accountable for anything including their employees. Their business models only dictates that they are accountable to the bottom line. They will throw anything under the bus for profits. This a short sighted worship that hurts society, progress, environment and lives. The moneyed plutocracy must have been furious at the results of the elections and demanded the astroturf groups better produce some results or lose their financial support. This ramming a law through a lame duck session is the panic button being pushed by recipients of Koch money. I don't see Michigan staying a work to right state. The way the Michigan's state house did this is a declaration of war on labor and now people are forced to fight back. That is why there is unions to organize and manage the fights that labor has to do to protect labor from corporate malfeasance. The right work laws that are on southern state constitutions are left over from Jim Crow era because unions were color blind and the states didn't want their apartheid system challenge. I see this just one more attempt at class warfare waged by the plutocracy with money that thinks they buy what they want. I am optimistic and see the younger generation reeling in corporate power to improve their lives and the environment.

Questioning whether unions have done their best by labor is not the same as being completely against them.  Unfortunately the way our current economy is structured, they are often necessary sticks to get capital and the politicians it owns to do the right thing.  

Would you by chance be a UPS teamster?  If so, I have so many questions I would like to ask.

 

Never had the honor of being a Teamster. A move like this by the Republican politicians in Michigan has the potential of tar and feathering GOP for the next several elections in the future. It is just one more batshit crazy thing being tried by that GOP controlled state. Walker next door, may have survived his recall but the tar and feathers are still sticking to him. I had the pleasure of working with service employee union members in the election ground game in the last two cycles. I have the deepest respect for the expert help they gave to us here in Florida. When I moved here from Ohio the only unions was Federal and Teacher. Unions have made inroads into the hospitality industry because of the abuse and job insecurity that employees have put up with. They have worked tirelessly to put more Democrats into office in Florida and had the best election results for Democrats in many years. The local small unions are harnessing the new minority voter of South Florida in to a reliable Democratic voter. This is a right to work state that is becoming a lean blue state. Unions unleashed their election organizing experts on the swing states. Michigan is the home of the powerful UAW and this is pay back time. The UAW put all their might into Ohio and other states to defeat Republicans. I see this as political game of chess not a question of how unions have served their members. Panic and revenge is being played out in GOP held swing states. Look at Pa's move to change their electoral votes. Who knows what crap Rick Scott and groupies are thinking up over recess for Florida.

yes, Trking, I think we created a monster with this election. They don't take losing lightly. This is just the beginning of the takeover ambushes.  If we can't convince enough people that there are factions out there willing to destroy this country for their own gain, we're in big trouble.

We might be going down, Mona, but we're going down kicking and screaming.

Partial transcript from Electablog....

It’s particularly unfortunate that with a bill that probably has the highest public policy impact of any that we’ve debated here in the last 50 years, the other side didn’t have the common courtesy or the guts to allow the public to hear what they were doing.

No committee hearings.

No opportunity to debate amendments.

No public input.

Republican staffers in the gallery taking up seats so that taxpayers who traveled from across the state to get here are locked out.

I heard one of my colleagues talk about the “great transparency” we have in this chamber since the latest leadership has come in. THIS is transparency? THIS is what passes for transparency here? If you support this legislation, and I respect the sponsor of the amendment because he’s been very clear over the last two years about why he thinks the state should go this route, but the rest of the people here don’t have the guts to talk about this in front of people in this state.

That’s shameful. That’s not democracy. This is where democracy goes to die today.

I loved the applause at the end.

That was great, wasn't it?  I have it on my list above, too.  I love the fact that he's a Dem from Grand Rapids.  That must be a first!

(I just watched it again, thanks to your posting of the video.  I'll never get tired of it. smiley)

Durn. I missed where you had already posted it.

No kidding. A Dem from DeVosland is like finding a sacred unicorn in an evil forest.

There's supposed to be some kind of a gathering in Lansing to protest. It will be interesting to see if it will bring out more folks than did the v*gina uproar.

One of my kids lives in Lansing now. I'll have to phone him and find out if he'll be in the crowd.

Just got this from Chris at Eclectablog.  Wisconsin union members are on their way to Michigan to rally against RTW on Tuesday.

You can count on anti-union types to wail and gnash their teeth over “union thugs being imported from other states”. Be ready for that. You might ask these ignorant union-haters why they are content to see money flooding in from anti-union groups from other states (I’ll have more about this tomorrow) to destroy Michigan unions but are so in need of a fainting couch when union members from our sister state of Wisconsin who support our struggle stand with us in a display of solidarity.

Gonna be a party, looks like.

The Capitol's front steps are booked Tuesday for the Michigan chapter of Americans for Prosperity and other conservative groups supporting the legislation, said Republican consultant Stu Sandler. He said the reservation was made in the name of an economic group for youth, Involve America.

"Citizens are going to be coming up and thanking legislators and the governor for doing the right thing," Sandler said.

The Michigan AFL-CIO has booked the west side of the Capitol for the same time Tuesday.

"We are planning a large mobilization," American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 25 President Al Garrett said in a message to his members.

 

The dummies didn't think this through either. Now the opposition and Democrats can keep voters engaged all the way until 2014. Even if legal moves can't change the law trying will keep it on the news and remind voters how mad they are so they will vote in mid term. Lots of tar and plenty of feathers demonstrations with MSM invited to come. National coverage of populace demonstration keep people like me motivated.

Are you a bettin' woman, momoe? 'Cause I'll bet you a fancy cake pan no one will hear peep one from the MSM about any of the protesters showing up at the capital in Lansing. The Michigan papers will cover it but it won't go national. The only way to keep the people motivated is to keep it going in the blogs.

Ed Schultz and MSNBC's cameras will be there.  This is right in his wheel house.  It is good for several exclusive  shows.  By the way he ranks twice in the top 20 news shows in his 8 and 11 PM time slots. He and Rachel have the 2 most watched news shows outside of Fox news.  MSNBC will be all over it because they have been climbing in the ratings and want to keep them up now that the election is over. NBC will show clips on Tuesday evening broadcast if their cameras are there.

Oh I don't need any more fancy pans.  I just got done moving them all to a larger closet. LOL Which do you want? Vintage or new bundt pan.

 

I'm betting Rachel will be on top of it, too.  She won't be there, but she'll be reporting the activities.  I don't know how much good any of that does, but it's a great morale boost for the people making the effort to rally.

No cable or satellite for me sad ... Shift+R improves the quality of this image. Shift+A improves the quality of all images on this page. so I'm clueless about MSNBC shows. But, good for them if they have their cameras there. (We are also out of range for an NBC station so no help there either.) I've seen one story from AP so maybe there will be a bigger MSM presence than Wisconsin got. I hope so.

I don't need any more fancy cake pans either! hahahaha I seldom use the ones I do have!

 

Here you go, Flower.  All the good stuff is in clips.  You can find all the other guys there, too, on the banner.  http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26315908/ns/msnbc_tv-rachel_maddow_show/

I don't have cable or satellite either but I watch all the clips every day from the night before's show. I am sure their following is just as high on internet and have a larger viewership all total then the top fox news shows.  I can't imagine any one wanting to keep up with fox on the internet.  They would just listen to Rush and call their grandkids to talk them through their computer errors. 

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