by Brian Washington
With the stroke of a pen, Michigan’s Republican Gov. Rick Snyder has taken a state on the upswing and knocked it off course — forcing hardworking Michiganders and their families down a path that will lead to fewer jobs, lower wages, crumbling communities, and a weaker economy.
Despite intense pressure from workers within and outside the state, Snyder signed into law tonight the so-called “Right-to-Work” bill — which opponents characterize as a gift to wealthy “fat cat” donors like Amway heir Dick DeVos and billionaire CEOs David and Charles Koch, known as the “Koch Brothers,” who are bankrolling anti-worker legislation and elected officials to strip middle-class workers of their voices so they can’t challenge the agenda of the 1 percent.
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The legislation was sent today to Snyder, who flip-flopped last week after previously saying the bill “was not on his agenda,” by a GOP super-majority in the state legislature, which fast-tracked the bill, bypassing any public hearings, and gave it final approval this afternoon.
“It’s disgusting union busting,” shouted 17,000 angry Michigan residents from all across the state who descended upon Lansing beginning early this morning and stormed the Capitol — inside and out — to protest the bill. Workers say the bill is a direct attack upon those who teach our children, keep us healthy, protect our streets, and build our roads and vehicles.
Michigan’s Democratic delegation in Congress — including U.S. Sen. Carl Levin — returned home and met with Snyder yesterday to urge the governor to change course on the legislation, but to no avail.
President Barack Obama, who worked with employees and their unions in Michigan to save the auto industry, visited yesterday a plant in Detroit, where he publically blasted state Republican leaders for attacking the rights of hardworking Americans to bargain for better wages and working conditions (see video starting at 12:00).
“We shouldn’t be doing that,” said President Obama, who got a loud round of applause from the crowd. “These so-called ‘right to work’ laws, they don’t have to do with economics; they have everything to do with politics. What they’re really talking about is giving you the right to work for less money.”
Studies show right to work laws drive down wages for all workers — union and non-union — by an average of $1,500 per year and have destructive consequences. For example, reduced wages can lead to reduced spending on local businesses and fewer jobs, which can harm middle-class families and the communities where they reside.
However, on the flip side, strong unions can bolster the economy with good jobs and grow the middle class. In Michigan, collective bargaining reportedly brought back more than 20,000 jobs to the auto industry.
Opponents of the legislation say they are currently researching and exploring available options to protect the rights of middle-class workers and their families. If you want to get more information about the MI fight to protect workers and their families, click here.