Michigan Anti-Union Advocates Want to Undermine the Middle Class

by Clyde Weiss  |  December 06, 2012

Michigan protestors in the Capitol building
Working people pack the Capitol to protest anti-worker legislation.

The corporate-driven, right-wing effort to undermine workers’ rights by pushing so-called “right to work (for less)” laws is moving ahead at full speed in Michigan. The Michigan House and Senate today approved the measure this afternoon after Gov. Rick Snyder and Republican lawmakers put it on a fast track. 

Let there be no mistake. Those lawmakers who follow the anti-union agenda of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) – the source of much of this legislation – will be held accountable when voters get a chance to speak their own minds.

State Democratic Chairman Mark Brewer called for working people to pack the Capitol today in even larger numbers than the hundreds who crowded inside the Capitol in protest of the expected legislation yesterday. That demonstration is reminiscent of what happened in Wisconsin in 2011 when union members and allies took over that state’s Capitol to protest the loss of collective bargaining rights.

While the fight continues to restore workers’ rights in Wisconsin, we’ve already won key battles. Several lawmakers who supported Gov. Scott Walker’s anti-worker legislation lost their recall elections, resulting in a loss of Walker’s working majority in the state Senate. In Ohio, where Gov. John Kasich launched an attack on workers’ rights, the people overwhelmingly rejected his Senate Bill 5 legislation in a citizens’ referendum last fall.

The corporate forces behind this “right-to-work (for less)” legislation in Michigan came out of hiding Monday when the Michigan Chamber of Commerce announced support for the legislation, ending its neutrality on the issue. Another pro-business group called the Michigan Freedom Fund also announced this week that it is spending $1 million on TV ads supporting this initiative. The group’s president is Greg McNeilly, who managed the failed 2006 gubernatorial campaign of Dick DeVos, an heir to the Amway business fortune who’s estimated net worth is $5.1 billion, according to Forbes.

The proponents argue that this is about workplace fairness and equality, that it does not change collective bargaining, that it is not anti-union – that it’s a matter of fairness. But right-to-work a misleading term that hides what its proponents really want to do: weaken the voices of workers through their unions.

Such laws do not guarantee a right to work. Instead, they allow workers who enjoy the benefits negotiated by a union to avoid having to pay their fair share of the costs of representation.

Studies have shown that workers in right-to-work states lose economically compared to those in non right-to-work states. That’s why we call them right-to-work (for less) states. Read more here.

Delegates to AFSCME’s 40th International Convention in Los Angeles this year approved a resolution declaring that the union and our affiliates will “continue to counter the lies advanced by those individuals and organizations determined to weaken and destroy labor unions, by educating the public and elected officials about the real purpose and effect of these laws.” 

AFSCME will fight this dangerous legislation in Michigan and wherever it raises its ugly head. This is a fight for the working middle class.

“This is a fight for the middle class, for workers’ rights and dignity,” says AFSCME Council 25 Pres. Al Garrett. “Those politicians who want to protect the power of the 1 percent over the 99 percent are using this right-to-work legislation as a club to get us to surrender. They’re up to their same old political tricks. Those attacks didn’t work in the last election, which saw President Obama re-elected on the vow to rebuild the middle class, and it won’t work now. We will fight in the streets and in the Statehouse, and like the Wisconsin battle, our voices will be heard.”

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