Republican “Freedom:” Pepper Spray, Locked Doors, and Legalistic Gaming

Yesterday, both MI’s House and Senate passed so-called “right to work” bills.

The measure will be unpopular enough in this state–particularly if Democrats and unions successfully communicate to all workers the law will mean a cut in pay even for non-union employees.

But one of the initial reactions has to do with how the measure was passed. Even before the vote was taken, the conservative Holland Sentinel (in Erik Prince’s hometown and where Dick DeVos, who pushed Republicans to pass this, has a mansion) scolded Republicans for rushing through bills now after they had taken much of the summer off.

Michigan lawmakers are in a headlong rush to cram a year’s worth of policy making into a few frantic weeks. The same legislators who took off much of the summer and fall for vacation and campaigning are now trying to resolve issues ranging from right-to-work to education reform to wolf hunting in their “lame duck” session. The haste is unnecessary and simply bad government — the best thing senators and representatives could do for Michigan citizens right now would be to go home.

A lame-duck legislative session — the meetings between the November general election and the expiration of the current legislators’ terms at the end of the year — is always a dangerous time. With the election passed and, in many cases, their departure from office imminent, legislators often cast votes and push bills in a lame-duck session they would never do if they had to answer to voters for their choices.

After last night’s votes, the Detroit Free Press (the more liberal of Detroit’s two newspapers) called the lame duck shenanigans a rampage.

If the Michigan Legislature maintains its current pace, it won’t feel right to call the weeks between the election and the end of the year the “lame-duck session” any longer. This year’s lame-duck session has been more like a raging bull — or a runaway steamroller, flattening constituencies and citizens’ rights in the process.

It called out a number of the tools Republicans are using (notably, appropriations that will make these laws referendum-proof) to make these rash decisions even more dangerous.

And all that’s before you look at how the anti-labor bill was passed yesterday: The police shut protestors out of the Capitol (one was even overheard saying they were keeping just the union members out). To get rid of a few protestors, they sprayed pepper spray inside the building. Even after Democrats got an injunction to open the Capitol, the House declared itself immune from the injunction. And as they’re doing with an Emergency Manager bill meant to override the referendum that eliminated Governor Snyder’s changes to that anti-democratic policy, they attached appropriations to the anti-labor law to make sure it couldn’t be overturned via referendum.

The biggest irony? To introduce this gross abuse of democracy, Snyder used the word “freedom” eleven times. This is what Republicans think freedom is: not only the “freedom” to work for $1,500 less a year, the “freedom” to have more accidents on the job, the “freedom” to send our kids to crummier schools. But also the kind of “freedom” delivered with mobs of cops holding out citizens, the “freedom” to be pepper sprayed, the “freedom” that can’t be overturned by democratic vote.

This is what Republicans have been talking about when they discuss “freedom” all along, I guess.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

18 replies
  1. Rayne says:

    They’re still pushing that “Freedom to Work” propaganda bullshit on television, too. I saw a campaign add promoting this marvel of the modern age this morning, promoting protection of collective bargaining while encouraging the so-called “Freedom to Work.”

    I miss who paid for the ad, played during 7:30-8:30 am slot this morning. I’ll have to watch to see if it plays again tonight during evening news slot.

    Freedom. Like their precious “Freedom Fries” in the run-up to the Iraq War.

  2. emptywheel says:

    @Rayne: DeVos had a really big ad buy. Probably him.

    America: where a man can get fabulously wealthy off a multinational pyramid scheme, and even after the voters of the state resoundingly reject you as Governor, still take away the rights of the workers in the state.

  3. retirininfive says:

    Rayne — I’m in southeastern Michigan near Flint and I heard another on the radio about an hour ago. Big money ad buys means that there’s big money to be made from the “Right To Work For Less” — lest the rich bastards would not be buying the air time.

  4. retirininfive says:

    Rayne — I’m in southeastern Michigan near Flint and I heard another on the radio about an hour ago. Big money ad buys means that there’s big money to be made from the “Right To Work For Less” — lest the rich bastards would not be buying the air time.

  5. retirininfive says:

    Sorry, had trouble posting due to computer ineptitude. But isn’t it amazing how within less than twenty-four hours such a media ambush can be mounted? So much for Snyder’s reluctance to comment over the last few days. Unless the media folks worked all night long to produce the video and audio ads, this move has been planned for weeks.

  6. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Right to “work”, of course, is Republican and business jargon for right to “fire” without liability or penalty. It is the state legislature voting to cooperate with business to suppress workers’ wages, pensions, health care and other benefits, which suppresses labor’s ability to pressure for better safety and working conditions, better pay and benefits, any say in the business. It helps assure the top dozen or two managers that the gains from all of the firm’s labor accrue to them alone. Such laws are a national disgrace, a leap in the race to the bottom.

    Apart from their other pernicious effects, right to fire laws, properly renamed, put the burden on labor to help states compete with each other to compete for jobs. The other mule in that train is the general taxpayer, who subsidizes tax (sales, income, real estate, franchise, you name it) rebates and giveaways that help make retailers like Cabela’s and Wal-Mart especially profitable. The usual promise given in exchange, “creating jobs”, is ephemeral. The number of jobs rarely appear or last for long, and the wages paid are often low or minimum wage.

    All in, right to fire laws amount to government getting in bed with the biggest companies, to help assure their profitability on the backs of average workers and taxpayers. All while millionaires scream when asked to pay reasonable (or any) taxes on their income, housing, or inheritances.

  7. KarenJG says:

    Obviously, the serfs have to be educated about how glorious having their rights taken away is. Hence, the ad buys singing the praises of “right to get shafted and not be able to do a damn thing about it” legislation.

  8. Mary McCurnin says:

    The dems are in charge federally(sort of) and in CA. How do we stop the wave of bullshit legislation in the other states? The repugs have been very, very clever in their assault on the state houses. They worked hard over the years and it seemed no one was paying attention.

    or, at least, I wasn’t.

  9. orionATL says:

    @pdaly:

    yeah!

    propaganda!

    carefully crafted, republican propaganda.

    where is the dem answer?

    where is the dem public rhetoric that can both call these charlatans out and educate the voters about what is really going on?

  10. Raymond Murphy says:

    @retirininfive: Have we forgotten our labor history? Look up Haymarket Massecre and the 8 hour work day. Then look up 1936 sitins in which
    My Grandfather was locked in a factory while the goons surrounded them.
    I only have one conclusion.Hey Prez there has been $80 billion in off-
    shore accounts for over 12 years this is revenue that is needed to pay for
    our way of life.If you want to send our military out pay up.

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