Thursday, December 06, 2012

Michigan turns back the clock

The Republicans in Michigan's legislature are turning the clocks back on decades of progress for workers' rights, as they prepare to take the final steps to enact Right to Work for Less legislation today.

 To pass the legislation the governor and legislative Republicans engaged in blatant and high-handed departures from regular process. They released the bills at 11:00 this morning, moved the bills directly to the floor without holding any committee hearings, locked the doors of the State House to keep out opponents (a plan thwarted by an injunction obtained by organized labor), and are reported to have brought in seat-fillers to make sure there was no space in the chamber for the bills' opponents. Following the lead of Wisconsin's anti-union thugs, they also created a special exemption for police and firefighters to minimize opposition from supporters of public safety workers.

 Why was it so important to ram the bill through today? Because the legislature is in a lame duck session and in the new year there would not be enough Republicans to pass it.

 I lived in Michigan for a long time and I hate to see this. People fought and risked their lives in Michigan to create the United Auto Workers. Unions are what made Michigan great. Unions, and especially the UAW, made it possible for working people across the state to enjoy the benefits of the middle class: homeownership, reliable health care, workplace safety, and higher education for their children.

 Of course, these advantages come at a price to the Kochs and Devoses of the world, and as a consequence the ruling class took this opportunity to ram through this legislation and eliminate any chance for the workers to have a voice on issues that affect their lives.

 While some procedural steps remain, the outcome is clear. Unlike in Wisconsin, Michigan lacks the kind of procedural rules that allowed the Democrats to delay passage of union-busting legislation, although Senate Democrats did walk out before the vote was taken. No, the bosses in Michigan have won.

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