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Workers seek to block Michigan right-to-work law in court

by Félix Pérez

A coalition of worker and civil rights groups filed a lawsuit against the state last week, charging state officials violated the state’s open meetings law in December when they passed a right-to-work law while locking the public and the media out of the state Capitol.

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The lawsuit, filed January 31 in Ingham County Circuit Court, alleges the decision to lock down the Capitol “deprived the public of their right to participate in the legislative process.” The lockout, which lasted for more than four hours, violated the Open Meetings Act, the First Amendment and the Michigan Constitution, charges the complaint.

By allowing state police to block citizens from entering the Capitol, Lansing politicians not only violated the basic American principles of open and transparent government, they also violated specific state and federal laws designed to protect the rights of citizens, said Steven Cook, an education support professional and president of the Michigan Education Association, which is a plaintiff in the complaint.

Republican leaders rammed through the right-to-work law without any public input or amendments. On the day the bill was signed into law, more than 17,000 workers stormed the halls and grounds of the Capitol to protest the bill, which is expected to drive down wages for all workers by about $1,500 annually.

Workers believe the law is a politically motivated attack on their rights by Gov. Rick Snyder and GOP leaders appeasing their wealthy donors and anti-worker business titans Dick DeVos, Amway heir, and billionaire CEOs David and Charles Koch, also known as the “Koch Brothers.” DeVos, the Koch Brothers, and other wealthy, right-wing extremists are bankrolling anti-worker legislation that does nothing to restore balance to the economy or solve the problems of the middle class.

David and Charles Koch, anti-worker billionaires
       David and Charles Koch, anti-worker billionaires

“The closure of the entrance to the Capitol while contentious right-to-work legislation was being debated and voted on inside unquestionably impaired the rights of the public to witness and influence the affairs of their government. Hundreds of concerned citizens from all over Michigan were prevented from accessing the Senate and the House of Representatives to watch the proceedings, make their presence known, communicate with and lobby their representatives, and report to others what they observed,” according to the complaint filed by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The lawsuit stems from Dec. 6, 2012, when the Capitol doors were locked to prevent additional people from coming to witness or engage their legislators while right-to-work bills were being debated on the House and Senate floors. The public, including some journalists, were locked out while legislators debated and voted on the bills. While individuals already in the Capitol could stay, people waiting outside were not allowed to enter. In addition, the galleries overlooking the House floor were intentionally packed with legislative staffers so that the public could not participate.

2 responses to “Workers seek to block Michigan right-to-work law in court

  1. The only way a lot of the problems we’re having now will be settled is to vote every Republican out of office. Another way of putting it is to say: The party of obstructionists, the party of just say “no” to anything that will benefit the American people, the anti-immigration party, the anti-women’s health party, the anti-black party, the people’s party of pleasing their business supporters over the American people, the anti-minority party, and the party of those who would carve up this nation into their own individual fiefdoms for their own benefit. Too many of them are out of touch with their constituents, the American people, and worst of all, out of touch with reality. But this is to be expected when one keeps sending the same people to Congress year after year. There are others just as capable of leading this country who aren’t out of touch. It’s time to retire the Republicans and the Republican Party.

  2. We are being asked to capitulate to downward pressure on wages that is a result of the lucrative offshoring of jobs model begun back in the 60s but perfected in board rooms across America by the time NAFTA was drafted By Bush Sr., Canada’s Mulroney, and Mexico’ Salinas back in the late 1980s. It was a Trojan Horse designed to by-pass the high wage of the USA worker and slash costs of labor and regulations imposed in the USA. It didn’t come up for a vote until Clinton took office, and he had a tough job of selling the Bill to a reticent caucus. “If I didn’t think this Bill would create more American jobs, I wouldn’t have signed it,” he said. Perot was right; however, “When all you care about is making money, there’ll be a giant sucking sound headin’ south. When China joined the WTO in 2001(current avg. wage= $1.36/hr.), even our jobs in Mexico left for China. And now these cheap products roll up on our shores daily in Maersk freighters (load capacity: 2.2 million train car sized “containers”) to soak our nation, undersell Made in USA, and fleece a declining USA middle class consumer.

    If our offshoring corporations (multinationals) wish to employ sweatshops to increase their profit margin AND then want access to our still potent, but rapidly declining middle class consumer market they’ve abandoned, our government, to keep USA capital from being flowing OUT of the USA and INTO China and the deep pockets of a Plutocratic class, our government needs to do some clever maneuvering to balance our national solvency (an issue that I believe has become a matter of national security) with the potential for trade wars or worse. If they don’t, the USA will continue to bleed a slow death as capital that would sustain our consumer market AND fund our government, gushes out like blood from a severed artery (sorry for the melodramatic analogy).

    For an example of a possible balancing act, consider Germany. They impose a 19% tariff on imports (except some agri. and raw materials) as well as a VAT (depending on how much of a product was manufactured/assembled inside and outside Germany) to protect their vital industrial base and keep worker wages high; a wage that the German populous pumps back into the economy to sustain a decent GDP. We don’t do that here and it shows. Tariffs could be leveled according to a nation’s wage scale and their human rights violations. Nations’ sweatshop conditions including low wages and human rights violations determined by our trade commission would pay a higher tariff to gain access to our consumer market, still one of the top markets in the world, but declining.

    Another no-brainer that doesn’t even enter into the discussion is a return to the marginal tax rates of the 1950s and 60s, THE BOOM YEARS. By taxing our wealthiest citizens earnings at 90% you create an incentive for them to INVEST their wealth in ways that benefit the USA. To get a tax break; they would need to invest in the USA: USA (non-offshoring) corporations, USA payrolls, USA R&D, USA pharma, USA construction employed to rebuild the infrastructure, NASA, Education funds, philanthropy, etc. If they wish to invest in “multinational” corporations who offshore jobs, their taxation on those returns would be 90%. If corporations that offshore their workforce, they forfeit the generous corporate welfare of loopholes, exemptions, credits, write-offs, etc. (by some estimates it approaches $340 BILLION/yr.). To enjoy the benefits of having a USA address, we all need to chip in our fair share. The wealthy are no exception!

    Why don’t we take measures like these to save the USA from insolvency? Because that would upset the gravy train our plutocrats, who are realizing fabulous profit margins (and loophole subsidies from the USA tax payers) have come to expect from the lucrative business of offshoring production and then importing these cheap goods, made at pennies on the dollar, rolling up on our shores daily in Maersk freighters (capacity: 2.2 million train car sized “containers”), tariff free ($600 BILLION/yr. trade deficits for 10 yrs. and counting) to soak the USA and fleece an increasingly dependent middle class running low on disposable income to purchase higher priced, Made In USA. We then allow these same offshoring corporations to park their $5 TRILLION in cash in offshore accounts to avoid paying ANYTHING to the USA (like paying taxes to the USA, which is increasingly being viewed as the enemy is for chumps!)

    Even Wall Street has succumbed to (an addictive analogy) a dependence on the Chinese derivatives to fund the kind of returns on investments that prop up our retirement pensions, 401k’s and other investments that make them an integral part of our financial survival and solvency, which has gigantic implications for our sovereignty.

    That our insulated plutocratic class, sitting in board rooms with their executive teams and board of trustees, champions of the free market and disciples of blind capitalism have no allegiance to the USA may be the reality, but if they wish to enjoy the benefits that accompany a USA address, as well as access to our consumer market, I believe they can cast their lot with their nation of origin, place their shoulder strenuously to the wheel and chip in with the arduous task of bringing America the Beautiful, land of opportunity, to solvency.

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