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President Obama: Michigan Right-to-Work Bill is All About Politics

by Clyde Weiss  |  December 10, 2012

President Obama
President Obama speaks in Redford, Mich.

President Barack Obama put the fight over Michigan’s right-to-work legislation into crystal clear perspective on Monday, declaring that such anti-worker laws “have nothing to do with economics – they have everything to do with politics. What they’re really talking about is giving you the right to work for less money.”

Speaking in Redford, where he came to give a speech about the looming fiscal cliff at a Daimler Detroit Diesel plant, the President added, “What we shouldn’t be doing is trying to take away your rights to bargain for better wages and working conditions.” He pointed to Michigan auto workers, whom he said were “instrumental in reviving the auto industry, to see how unions have helped build not only a stronger middle class but a stronger America.

“We don’t want a race to the bottom, we want a race to the top!” he affirmed.

The President’s darts, thrown directly at Gov. Rick Snyder’s efforts to ram a right-to-work law through the Legislature, were bulls-eyes. He’s right that this legislation will only make it easier for employers to drive down wages and benefits.

Right to work laws weaken the ability of workers to bargain collectively for their wages and benefits by driving a wedge between those who join a union and pay dues, and those who benefit from a union’s contract but choose not to pay their fair share for that representation.

Right-to-work laws drive down wages for all workers by an average of $1,500 a year, whether they are in a union or not.

On Tuesday, thousands of Michigan citizens – union members and allies, including members of the faith community, will make their own voices heard on this debate during a rally at the state Capitol in Lansing. They will send a clear message to Governor Snyder that we will not stand for the working middle class being attacked to benefit corporate CEOs.

The Detroit Free Press, in an editorial published Monday, urged the governor to back off and let the voters decide. The paper added, Snyder has pulled one of the more offensive bait-and-switches in recent political memory. During his campaign and since his election, has said right-to-work was too divisive for Michigan and that it wasn’t on his agenda. Then last week, he did a monumental skin-back on that position.”

Why the rush to push this divisive bill into law? President Obama called it politics, and that’s just what it is – politics of the worst kind. Republicans, who are pushing the measure, now control 64 of the House’s 110 seats in a lame duck session that could end this week. That majority will decline to 59 next year. So Governor Snyder has decided to press while the political iron is hot.

That’s no way to run a government that depends on the good will of both parties to govern effectively for all the people of Michigan. In an effort to defuse this volatile situation, a group of senior Democrats met with the governor behind closed doors on Monday. They called for him to either veto the measure if passed in a final vote expected Tuesday, or to at least put off the vote to let lawmakers debate it.

They also threatened to delay action on other legislation to protest the Republican’s right-to-work scheme.

This deteriorating situation didn’t have to happen. Even Governor Snyder knew how divisive it would be. But he has become a puppet to corporate-driven groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council, the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, and the Michigan Freedom Fund, which is spending $1 million on TV ads supporting this initiative.

This is all part of a larger initiative by the right-wing and corporate CEOs to silence the voices of the working middle class. That’s why AFSCME will do whatever it takes to save workplace democracy and the American Dream. Nothing is off the table when it comes to how we do it.

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