By: David Killey
Originally Appeared in: The Huntington Post
There is no state in the union as thick with union politics as Michigan. Not even Wisconsin where Governor Scott Brown was subject to a recall election last year after trying to bust public employee unions. But Michigan’s Governor is close to jamming the most anti-union law in the state’s history into law this week without debate.
The issue was urgent enough to warrant a visit from President Obama, who flew in Monday afternoon and spoke at the Daimler Detroit Diesel plant in Redford, Mich. Obama praised union workers for helping save the auto industry. And he said right to work laws won’t help the middle class.
“These so-called ‘right to work’ laws, they don’t have to do with economics; they have everything to do with politics,” Obama said. “What they’re really talking about is giving you the right to work for less money.”
Right to work laws let any employee who works in business that is unionized refuse to join the union or pay union dues. The laws erode the power of the unions by draining resources. Michigan would become the 24th state in the U.S. with right-to-work laws.
Michigan is home to the United Auto Workers, and the union is at war with Republican Governor Rick Snyder and the state legislature over plans to pass a right-to-work law in the state.
As state legislators, lobbyists and labor advocates debated the issue Thursday amidst union protests, eight people were arrested for resisting and obstructing a police officer as the protesters were trying to push passed police to get onto the Senate floor. More than fifty state police cars and units were deployed to the protest areas in the capitol city of Lansing. Police arrested several protesters and sprayed mace into the crowd when they tried to rush the Senate floor.
Conservatives and Republicans resent the political spending that organized labor unions spend on mostly Democratic candidates. Unions counter that unionized workplaces such as construction sites and auto plants achieve pay and benefit standards, workplace safety and training, and that it is wrong for workers to be hired who don’t have to support those efforts.
Police and fire-fighters are excluded from the bill, in part because their opposition to such laws in other states have led to right-to-work laws being overturned.
Obama called the right-to-work initiative part of the “race to the bottom.”
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