by Brian Washington
Even though a new poll shows voters are against it, the State House and Senate in Michigan this afternoon approved a bill pushed by leaders in the GOP-controlled state legislature and corporate CEOs that unfairly tips the scales against hardworking Michiganders.
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The so-called “Right to Work” bill was introduced and passed Thursday without a single hearing or public debate. And while the bill’s name sounds as if it might benefit workers, Michigan workers aren’t fooled. This bill, say worker advocates, is designed to give corporate CEOs such as David and Charles Koch — two of the bills primary backers — even more power to maximize profits at the expense of those who teach our children, protect our streets, keep us healthy, and build our roads and vehicles.
Gov. Rick Snyder, who is also a Republican, previously called the bill “divisive” and said the issue “was not on his agenda” but, under pressure from conservative leaders in the House and Senate and wealthy political donors, he changed his mind following meetings this week.
“We elected leaders who we thought would work together to create jobs, steer our economy back to fiscal strength, and restore the American Dream for the middle class,” said Steven Cook, an educator from Lansing who is president of the Michigan Education Association (MEA). MEA represents the teachers and education support professionals who serve the students in Michigan’s public schools.
Cook added, “Instead, Governor Snyder and his allies in the Legislature are fulfilling their extremist agenda by going after working families — setting the wrong priorities and making the wrong choices.”
The bill is getting huge support from the business community, which sees this as an opportunity to game the system and get ahead on the backs of middle class workers. The Michigan Chamber of Commerce, which hadn’t supported the bill, flip-flopped this week and has come out in favor of the legislation.
The Michigan Freedom Fund, a group led by the Republican strategist who headed-up Amway heir Dick DeVos’ failed 2006 gubernatorial attempt and is currently employed by the DeVos family, has launched a statewide $1 million television and radio ad campaign. Americans for Prosperity, a group headed by the Koch brothers, is also pushing the bill.
“Let’s be clear. This legislation is not about improving the economy or creating jobs — this is political payback that puts big corporations and special-interest CEOs before Michigan’s working families,” said Cook, who added that this is a “dangerous law” that would weaken families, suppress voices in our democracy, and divide us all.
The governor’s decision has sparked heated protests in Lansing, with workers storming the State Capitol chanting, “Hey-Hey, Ho-Ho, Right to Work has got to go.” At one point, the Capitol’s doors were locked for several hours to the public. More demonstrations are scheduled over the next several days.
Thursday afternoon, President Barack Obama, who won the state of Michigan and is also credited with helping revive the state’s auto industry, released a statement opposing the bill.
Meanwhile, a new poll shows that when voters understand what’s at stake, they oppose lawmakers passing legislation designed to make Michigan a right-to-work state. After hearing statements in favor of and against, 51 percent of those polled said they oppose right-to-work legislation while only 41 percent said they support it.
To get the latest information about the fight to protect workers’ rights in Michigan, click here.