Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, who, in his two years in office, had maintained that he would not support so-called right-to-work legislation because it is too divisive, did an abrupt about-face in December. As the clock ticked down on a lame-duck Legislature, he signaled that he had changed his mind. Republican legislators rammed two anti-worker measures—one for the public sector and one for the private—through both chambers.
With a stroke of the pen on Dec. 11, Snyder made Michigan—the cradle of the American labor movement—the 24th right-to-work state in the nation.
The legislation takes away workers’ rights while doing nothing to create jobs. In reality, the record from right-to-work laws in other states is one of lower wages, fewer benefits and more dangerous workplaces.
The actions of the elected officials, many of whom won’t even be in office come January, “demonstrated their contempt not only for Michigan’s middle-class families, but also for democracy itself,” said AFT president Randi Weingarten.
President Obama, who was at the Daimler Detroit Diesel Plant on Dec. 10, said that right-to-work laws are a “race to the bottom.” They are “giving you the right to work for less money,” he said. “What we shouldn’t be doing is trying to take away your rights to bargain for better wages or working conditions.”
Hundreds of AFT members from both the K-12 and higher education divisions were among the more than 15,000 workers, labor leaders, clergy, activists and other allies who gathered outside the Lansing Capitol on Dec. 11 to protest.
“The actions of Gov. Rick Snyder and his lame-duck Legislature have torn Michigan apart,” said AFT Michigan president David Hecker. “The thousands of men and women who gathered in Lansing today began the process of putting it back together. Today was the first step in the long road to take our state back.”
“Gov. Snyder’s own flip-flop on this issue reveals the lengths to which he is willing to go to deliver for the Koch brothers, the American Legislative Exchange Council, [Amway heir] Dick Devos, CEOs and other extremists waging a war on working people—all while ignoring the will of Michigan citizens and the needs of Michigan families,” said Weingarten. She applauded the six Republican House members and four Republican senators who joined with every Democratic legislator to oppose the law.