Friday, December 07, 2012

No rights at work in Michigan

By Frank Moraes 

I'm thinking of starting a weekly rundown of the best writing I find online, because a lot of it doesn't get mentioned here because I have nothing to add. That is very much true of John Nichols at The Nation who manages to write brilliantly on the local and national level. This evening, he wrote an article that gave me a little bit of hope about Michigan, "GOP, Koch Brothers Sneak Attack Guts Labor Rights in Michigan."

As you have likely heard, the Michigan senate managed to ram through a right-to-work bill and it is certain to be passed by the house and signed by Governor Rick Snyder. Unfortunately -- and I think this is a big part of its power -- most people are confused about what right-to-work means. It certainly sounds like a good thing; who could be against more rights?! But as with similarly Orwellian phraseology like the Clear Skies Act, it is bad. Nichols suggests the term "no-rights-at-work."

Right-to-work laws limit rights. They stop companies from having contracts that dictate that all workers must be unionized. In effect, they deprive unions of most of their power. What's more, since all the workers must be paid equitably, the union ends up negotiating and fighting for the rights of non-union workers who do not pay them dues. It is a way to destroy the last vestiges of unionization.

So what made me hopeful? First, there is the possibility of a court challenge. But it is hardly a sure thing. The main thing is that if the Democrats can get back control of the state's government -- and this is likely given all that the Republicans are doing to increase the ranks of the poor -- this can all be changed. Eventually. Nichols ends by quoting UAW president Bob King, "This is a short-term victory for... the radical right wing. In the long-term there will be a victory for working families in Michigan." I hope so.

Afterword

It bothers me a bit that Bob King refers to the "radical right wing." It reminds me that many unions supported Ronald Reagan, who probably did more to destroy unions than any other single man in this country. And many police and firefighter unions still support Republicans. I understand that the Democratic Party has been a mixed bag. But that's just it: they've been a mixed bag. There is nothing mixed about the bag of bullshit the Republicans have long offered to organized labor.

(Cross-posted at Frankly Curious.)

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