17.5% of the Michigan workforce belongs to a union. That means you probably don't belong to one. If that's the case, I bet you're wondering what all the hubbub is about in Lansing over all this "right to work" (RTW) stuff.
If you've not paid attention to any of this, or have chosen not to, I don't blame you. The politics behind it all is really disgusting.
I watched it from the state Senate Gallery on Wednesday night and all day on Thursday. I watched the political calculations being made by conservative Republicans, who saw Proposal 2's defeat as an excuse to try to stick it to all working people in the state. I heard Dick DeVos has been working hard on the Republican leadership behind the scenes. I also heard about the way his wife, Betsy, has walked into Republican meetings and threatened to run extremist types against any sensible GOP legislators who didn't like the radical direction the party is currently on. The Koch Brothers' "Americans for Prosperity" bussed in a rent-a-mob on Wednesday to push for RTW. As I write this from the state Capitol, with at least 1000 hard-working blue collar people screaming things like, "What Does Democracy Look Like? THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE!" I witnessed an attempt to pack pro-RTW people into the gallery, and squeeze the rest of us out.
Why was there such a determined effort to pass something so controversial, so unpopular, and so harmful to the state?
For one thing, Republicans don't have much time to do it before most of their majority in the state House evaporates. The ones who have been shown the door by the voters last month have no trouble voting for something this harmful. They have nothing to lose. You do.
Another reason is money. Every dollar that employers take from the 99% of us is a dollar diverted from the economy and into the pockets of the 1%. They don't spend like the rest of us, and it doesn't lead to as much growth as when we all spend money, because 99% of us spread it out a lot farther than the 1% can.
If RTW gets signed by the Governor, you'll end up with less to put into the economy, union and nonunion members alike. Small businesses will suffer. They won't be able to expand, or hire as many workers. Good paying jobs will be harder to find. Michigan will go the way of Indiana, as well as the other RTW states, where all of this has already happened.
Those mouthpieces of the Koch brothers and DeVoses have proclaimed that the opposite will happen--that we'll have a flood of jobs and economic prosperity into the state if we pass what they call "Freedom to Work." The result will be "Freedom to Freeload," as non-unionized workers reap the same benefits that dues-paying union members get for them. Then, when contract negotiations happen in places that embrace RTW, we'll start to see "Freedom to Work For Less Than Ever Before," where employers try to play union groups off the nonunion ones. If they succeed, everyone's wages get pushed downward.
They've also said that they support collective bargaining, since they heard that 70% of you do too. What a joke! They've passed a slew of bills that hurt public-sector employees, stack the deck in favor of management, and otherwise
make it incredibly difficult for public-sector unions to secure a fair deal. Now, they want to spread the damage to the private sector.
If I had my way, we'd all be in unions, the rules would be equally fair for labor and management, and we'd all be better off. Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville said that on Thursday, minus the 'fair' part. Too bad his party's RTW delusion, paid for by billionaires, seeks to undermine it all. He even refused to have the bill named after him, when Democrats offered an amendment to do so. Go figure...
RTW is great for the 1%, but it's horrible policy for you. Yes, I mean YOU. I'd ask you to contact your legislator and oppose all this, but the Republican majority in the Legislature ran it through in one day, with no real time to discuss the mess they just made. No committee hearings, no usual careful consideration, no nothing. Democrats in the Senate thundered against all this for hours. They said a lot of what I wrote here, and so much more...to no avail.
Governor Snyder plans to sign this travesty on or after Tuesday, having made the excuse that this wouldn't have happened if Proposal 2 hadn't been attempted. I'll remember that in 2014, when everyone who supported RTW are up for re-election. I hope you do too.
Trenton Education Association, MEA/NEA