The Detroit Free-Press, which endorsed Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) in his 2010 campaign and has generally supported him since, blasted his decision toram through a union-busting “right-to-work” law in a lame-duck legislative session. At Snyder’s urging, the state House and Senate each passed versions of the law this week. The editorial board slammed his move as a “failure of leadership” and observed that his “about-face” amounted to a betrayal of Michigan’s voters.
The paper noted that while it “trusted Snyder’s judgment,” that trust “has now been betrayed.” It expressed disappointment on behalf of independents who thought Snyder more independent and visionary “than partisan apparatchiks like Wisconsin’s Scott Walker or Florida’s Rick Scott,” adding:
His insistence that the legislation was designed to promote the interests of unionized workers and “bring Michiganders together” was grotesquely disingenuous; even as he spoke, security personnel were locking down the capital in anticipation of protests by angry unionists.
Snyder’s ostensible rationale for embracing right-to-work legislation — it was, he insisted, a matter of preserving workers’ freedom of association — was equally dishonest.
The real motive of Michigan’s right-to-work champions, as former GOP legislator Bill Ballenger ruefully observed, is “pure greed” — the determination to emasculate, once and for all, the Democratic Party’s most reliable source of financial and organizational support.
I disagree with Mr. Ballenger’s framing here. I think liberals and Democrats have adopted a media-conservative horse race narrative that sets this up as a Big Labor (Democratic) politicians versus Big Business (Republican) politicians and that narrow story benefits conservatives. It’s “both sides do it”, it ignores real-world consequences to ordinary people with an exclusive focus on politicians and it misses the point.
Why are lobbyists writing these state laws? Beating Democrats isn’t an end. That isn’t the goal. It’s pure greed, all right, but it’s much bigger than donations to Republicans or Democrats. Destroying private sector unions drives down wages in the private sector and destroying public sector unions leaves the field clear to move in and privatize public services, including public schools. It’s about the money, and I don’t mean campaign contributions. I’ve written about public school deregulation and privatization here frequently in both Ohio and Michigan. There is a lot of money to be made driving down private sector wages and there’s a lot of money to be made privatizing publicly funded services and entities. Limiting this discussion to campaign contributions and Republican politicians versus Democratic politicians benefits those who seek to drive down wages and privatize public services and entities, because we never reach the real issues, which are stagnant or falling wages and for-profit privatization, respectively, depending on whether we’re talking about private or public sector. We can win on those.
Events today and tomorrow are a prelude to the massive Day of Action planned for Tuesday in Lansing at the Capitol. Some of our brothers joined hundreds in a civil disobedience training yesterday at UAW Local 600’s hall in Dearborn.
Some of the core people who worked on We Are Ohio here in 2011 are headed to Michigan Tuesday. As of right now I’m going with them, although that could change depending on my own work commitments.