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Michigan’s new anti-worker legislation condemned

13 December, 2012IndustriALL’s affiliates in the US are condemning the Midwestern state of Michigan’s new “right-to-work” legislation, which despite its name serves to reduce workers’ rights to bargain for better wages and working conditions.

The two bills were pushed, by an alliance of the Republican Party and big business, through the lame-duck legislative session in the state and went to Governor Rick Synder for signature into law. The state legislature has been newly elected and will be reconvened early 2013 with more Democrats who would have rejected the proposals.

Notable in supporting the effort were Americans for Prosperity, the group funded by notorious Koch brothers.

The Snyder signature finalized the process yesterday, 12 December, as 17,000 protestors were mobilized at short notice outside the Lansing State Capitol building, rejecting the changes. Four giant inflatable rats in the crowd were named for prominent Republican politicians and their richest backer. Seemingly nobody in Michigan was pushing for the law, other than powerful right-wing business leaders.

USW President Leo Gerard had pressured Gov. Snyder not to sign the regressive bill, in an “appeal to common sense economics over politics”… “We ask the Governor to use his veto power to stop this unnecessary and divisive right-to-work bill”. A delay in signing by Gov. Snyder would have at least brought the bill to a public debate and vote.

During the deliberations the Republican House Speaker ordered the doors of the capitol building to be locked, while protestors outside were maced by police.

Right-to-Work in other US states has led to numerous kinds of attacks on unions including on workers comp, public sector wages, and the abolition or weakening of pensions and collective bargaining in the public sector. It has also led to weaken by removing mandatory topics or placing limits on arbitration awards, banning collection and spending of union dues on "political action", banning union "lobbying" activities, and banning on-site union offices. Studies have shown that workers in so-called “right to work” states earn an average of $1,500 less annually.

“If you’re not outraged by what’s happening in Michigan, you’re not paying enough attention,” said IAM President Tom Buffenbarger, also an IndustriALL Vice-President. “The way this legislation was passed amounts to a sneak attack on democracy itself and proves beyond a doubt the means the Koch brothers and their allies will go to impose their extremist agenda.”

IndustriALL-affiliated UE condemned the “corporate blitzkrieg” that “left working people with little time to respond”. See the UE background piece “Exposing the Right-to-Work Fraud”