Training in how to "protest peacefully, get noticed and stay safe" at a UAW hall in Dearborn, Michigan, today.
With sudden support from Republican Governor Rick Snyder, Republicans in the Michigan legislature have been speeding through a package to severely weaken unions in that state. The pace at which the bills are moving through the lame-duck session is almost unbelievable. That it's happening in the birthplace of the modern American labor union is almost unfathomable.
The legislature next takes up the so-called Right to Work measures, which essentially ban union shops, on Tuesday. Today opponents of Right to Work gathered at the UAW hall, picture above, for training in how to "protest peacefully and stand together" -- a long tradition in Michigan labor. State officials are expecting a crowd of thousands next week at the Capitol in Lansing. Eclectablog reports that the union supporters will find that conservative groups have already reserved the Capitol steps for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, after which the chambers adjourn.
Activists are also making calls from a phone-bank against the bills at the AFL/CIO office in Lansing. Meanwhile, a judge has urged state police to keep the Capitol building open to protesters if at all possible. The closure of the building last Thursday, during the first votes, has prompted suits over the state's Open Meetings law.
Right to Work legislation has moved through so quickly that one Republican lawmaker voter against it because, he said, "We literally weren't given the legislation to read until minutes before voting." From experience with Right to Work in other states, conservatives and liberals agree that the rule is catastrophic for unions, with significant cuts in membership, and lower wages and benefits. As Stephen Henderson writes in the Detroit Free Press:
[O]f the 11 states with the fastest-growing economies as measured by gross domestic product, only three were right-to-work states in 2011. (Michigan was on that list in 2011, too, which Snyder spent all year this year bragging about. Now, suddenly, he claims our economy is being hobbled by an oppressive union environment.)
As a result, right-to-work states also suffer much worse poverty than union states, by several important measures.
Eight of the 10 states with the lowest overall per-capita incomes are right-to-work. And among the states with the highest rates of people without medical insurance (a sign of the quality of jobs available), seven of 10 are right-to-work. Eight of the 10 states with the highest poverty rates are right-to-work.
If Right to Work, leads to job growth, it appears be because of a successful race to the bottom. (H/t Ed Gilgore at Washington Monthly, Alec MacGillis at The New Republic.) (And P.S. Michigan Republicans have also been racing through new restrictions on abortion, sweeping changes to the education that several superintendents call undemocratic, and a revised emergency manager law, while Detroit talks big layoffs to avoid a state takeover.)