LANSING, MI, December 11, 2012 — The Michigan House has passed contoversial right-to-work legislation limiting the power of unions. The same bill passed the Senate last week and Governor Rick Snyder has acknowledged that he will sign it in to law.
Protests erupted in Lansing, Michigan’s capitol, drawing an estimated ten thousand people and creating a scene reminiscent of last year’s protest in Wisconsin.
Protests that lead to the attempted recall election of Wisconsin’s Governor Scott Walker this year.
One of the strongest pro-union states, one that has voted blue in every Presidential election since 1992, one that has been a symbol of the American auto industry is set to become a right-to-work state.
Up for re-election in 2014, this is a fight Governor Snyder did not want. A Republican-controlled legislature has forced his hand. Snyder had been creating positive momentum. He balanced the budget, erased a deficit and eliminated the Michigan Business Tax - all in efforts to make Michigan more competitive in job creation. Michigan’s 9.3% unemployment rate, still above the national average of 7.9%, has been decreasing and Snyder has called Michigan “the comeback state” for months.
There is a positive energy in Michigan. I was born here in a small town on Lake Michigan. When Newsweek called my hometown a “Top ten dying city” we responded with force by creating the wildly popular Grand Rapids LipDub. Detroit is a symbol of recovery and perseverence - echoed by recent Chrysler commercials.
Still, right-to-work is a divisive issue. One that almost entirely mirrors a map of red and blue states. Michigan becomes the 24th and perhaps most-surprising state to enact this law.
Proponents argue that right-to-work allows workers freedom of choice. They are no longer required to join unions, pay dues or be fired for not joining a union.
Opponents point to recent studies by both the Economic Policy Insitute and United States Department of Labor. The EPI states that wages have decreased by 3.2% in right-to-work states. The Department of Labor study shows a 9.4% decrease in median wages, as high as 11.7% among middle-school teachers.
Governor Snyder is in a lose-lose position. He is either going to offend his Republican base that passed the legislation or give the Democrats plenty of ammunition to unseat him in 2014. It’s a tough decision for “one tough nerd.”
It’s an even tougher decision for the middle-class of Michigan. A group that has seen some of the worst economic times during the recession. A group that was told to “let Detroit go bankrupt.” A group that can’t help but now feel like part of the Walmartification of America - lower wages, less benefits, less voice.
Jeff Barrett is the CEO of Status Creative, 2011 PRNewswire winner for Best Use Of Video In Social Media a former volunteer for Obama For America and was included in the 2010 Census.
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