This week Michigan became the country's 24th "right to work" state. But more than 12,000 protesters didn't let the misleadingly-named legislation pass quietly.
CWA activists joined workers pouring into the streets and flooding the state Capitol in what the Detroit Free Press is calling "the largest public protest the seat of state government has ever seen." A number of schools even closed as teachers joined the demonstration in Lansing. As soon as the Michigan House voted, largely along party lines, to bar contracts requiring public and private employees to pay union dues, people in the gallery began chanting "Shame on you!" and "Recall! Recall! Recall!" "The attack in Michigan, financed by the wealthiest 1/10th of 1 percent is an attack on our standard of living, not just union finances," said CWA President Larry Cohen. "The real goal of funders like billionaire Dick DeVos is to eliminate any voice for the 99 percent — especially a union voice. We will stay focused on bargaining and organizing rights just as the 1 percent is out to destroy those rights. Setbacks like these must lead to a broader movement for economic justice and democracy. Don't moan. Organize!"
Sue Mure of CWA Local 4123 coordinated active and retired CWAers from around the state to meet at the state Capitol. "Knowing what we were there for was frustrating, but it was also rejuvenating and empowering to be in that group. It got you going," she said. "We're down a battle, but we're ready for another fight." Mure said a lot of non-labor supporters in the crowd were asking CWAers about organizing, and a number of activists led discussions on how to talk to your neighbors about the new law and how workers can fight back in the legislature. "It was a great, peaceful, informative rally and protest," she said.
The GOP argument that this legislation will spur business investment and job creation is a flat out lie. In the words of President Obama, "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."
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has highlighted Indiana's economic success since passing "right to work" as a motivation for Michigan to do the same. But a new Economic Policy Institute study found that not a single company came to Indiana because of "right to work" and it continues to lose jobs to non-"right to work" states. Fred Morgan, President and CEO of Oklahoma's State Chamber, even admits that he can't name any companies that have moved to Oklahoma because of it's "right to work" legislation The law simply gives more power to corporations. Weakened unions are simply the fastest way for business to achieve lower wages and higher profits. And the
result is that workers will realize fewer gains from growth "A study by the University of Notre Dame in January found that the average wages and benefits for non-farm workers in right-to-work states was $57,732, while in states without the law it was $65,567. States with anti-dues laws have higher rates of poverty and lower rates of health coverage," The New York Times pointed out in an editorial.
The evidence is clear as day: This isn't "right to work." It's right to work for less. In next year's legislature, "right to work" can't pass. Many Republican supporters of "right to work" were defeated or aren't returning in January 2013.