The president and Michigan's Dem congresspeople give MI Gov. Rick Snyder a crash course on the nefarious true purpose of "right to work" laws
Michigan State Rep. Tim Greimel (D-Auburn Hills) explains what Gov. Rick Snyder apparently doesn't understand: how dreadful "right to work" laws like the one headed for the governor's desk actually work. (Hat tip to Marcy Wheeler via Greg Sargent.)
"These so-called right to work laws -- they don't have anything 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. . . .
"We don't want a race to the bottom. We want a race to the top. America's not going to compete based on low skills, low wage, no workers rights. That's not our competitive advantage. . . . "
-- President Obama today in Michigan, quoted by Greg Sargent
As soon as tomorrow, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder is likely to sign the dreadful so-called "right to work" law rammed through the imbecilized state legislature. Today, visiting the state, President Obama left no doubt where he stands, and, says Greg Sargent in "Obama drops the hammer on Michigan 'right to work' push":
Obama hit all the right notes. He pointed out that "right to work" laws are not about boosting the economy, but about crippling the political opposition; that they are not about freedom, but about weakening workers' ability to organize for better pay; that unions have long played a critical role in providing a path to the middle class; and that investing in a trained, well represented work force is the way to produce a broadly shared prosperity — rather than a 'race to the bottom' -- that is better for the country as a whole.Greg quotes these chunks of the president's speech:
So the president got it right, says Greg, but even so, "It's unclear how much of an impact this will have on the ongoing battle in Michigan."
What we shouldn't be doing is trying to take away your rights to bargain for better wages. These so-called right to work laws -- they don't have anything 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. You only have to look to Michigan, where workers were instrumental in reviving the auto industry, to see how unions have helped build not just a stronger middle class but a stronger America. [...]
We don't want a race to the bottom. We want a race to the top. America's not going to compete based on low skills, low wage, no workers rights. That's not our competitive advantage. There's always going to be some other country that can treat its workers even worse.
There were already signs that Governor Rick Snyder didn't fully understand how unions work and what the "right to work" laws speeding towards his desk actually do. In a private meeting today, top Michigan Democrats reiterated to him that labor and Dems simply want to ensure that unions have the right to collect fees from non-union members who benefit from their collective bargaining along with union members. And word is that Governor Snyder prides himself on being a pragmatic problem solving type, rather than an ideologue. So it can't hurt to have the President come into his state and tell the truth about these laws in such a high profile way, arguing that "right to work" isn't really about budgeting and won't help us innovate, compete, or move the country forward.Note that Michigander Marcy Wheeler has a somewhat different take on Governor Snyder's fuzzy understanding of right-to-work laws. Marcy is perhaps less inclined to take at face value the governor's self-proclamation as being a pragmatic problem-solving type rather than an ideologue. (Is there any evidence for this, other than stuff the governor himself may have said?)
So: Good for Obama for saying what needed to be said. We'll see if it makes a difference.
Greg's link about Governor Rick not fully understanding how unions work is to an Emptywheel post of Marcy's today, "Levin Brothers: Rick Snyder Doesn’t Understand How Unions Work," in which she refers to points made in a conference call by the Michigan Democratic senators and congressmen about their meeting with the governor this morning.
[T]he most interesting point that Senator [Carl] Levin made -- which his brother, Congressman Sander Levin elaborated on -- is that Snyder doesn't understand how unions work. "The Governor in his statement [last week] said it incorrectly," Sandy said, when he suggested workers would lose their job if they didn't join a union. "And today I still don't think he understands," Sandy continued. Congressman Levin went on to remind that the principle that workers could not be forced to join a union has been enshrined since he and then-Governor George Romney negotiated collective bargaining law back in 1965.Marcy think she understands why the Michigan Dem legislators are couching this right-to-work hiccough as a wee problem of incomplete understanding on the governor's part.
I guess the Democrats wanted to do two things: treat his obviously false excuse for passing this as a good faith statement, and then to correct the lies that false excuse was based on. But also to shift the blame for the labor unrest that will come as a result of this law onto the Governor; because he went along with what Carl Levin called a "parliamentary gimmick" that will push this through as referendum-proof, Snyder will be responsible for the negative effect this will have on Michigan's economy.Marcy's concerns about this strategy aren't limited to whether it will work.
[O]ne thing I didn't hear is a criticism of Snyder's vision for Michigan. Making MI a RtW state effectively embraces a vision of the state as Indiana or Mississippi or Bangladesh. Making MI a RtW state embraces the idea that we should be dumb labor, not innovative technology, just another entry in the race to be the cheapest, most desperate state.
I’m glad such key participants as Sandy Levin schooled Snyder on the last 50 years of MI history and what that history means for Snyder's decision tomorrow. But ultimately we need to be calling Snyder out for his terrible vision for the future of MI.