Levin Brothers: Rick Snyder Doesn’t Understand How Unions Work

Michigan’s Democratic Senators and Congressmen met with Governor Snyder this morning to urge him either to veto the so-called Right to Work bill, defer its passage until next term, or take the appropriations out that would make the law referendum-proof.

On a conference call describing their meeting, their chief message served to rebut Snyder’s claimed reasons to pass RtW–that he wanted to “get beyond” this issue and that RtW would help jobs. Discussing this bill as a “right to work cliff,” Carl Levin said that if this passed, the Governor “will allow us to plunge into endless strife.” And it would do so, Senator Levin noted, after labor and corporations have achieved more cooperative relations of late (presumably a reference to the auto industry).

But the most interesting point that Senator 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.

Now, in accusing Snyder of not understanding how unions work, 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.

I don’t know whether that will work or not. But one 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.

Update: I’ve added an MSNBC appearance by State Rep Tim Greimel (from Auburn Hills, where Chrysler is located). It’s one of the better descriptions of what what RtW does I’ve seen.

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.

6 replies
  1. Jeff Kaye says:

    But one 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.

    Gee, what a surprise. The Democrats are fake friends of labor. Oh, yes, I understand that certain individual Democratic politicians are very pro-labor. But they belong to a party that is in thrall to the bosses. When the Democrats controlled Congress entirely, and the White House, they never made any moves to rescind the anti-labor portions of Taft-Hartley, for instance.

    Meanwhile, the lazy union bureaucracy sat twiddling their thumbs and pushing Democratic party electoral politics, as union membership shrank and shrank under the blows of organized anti-labor tactics, backed by major politicians.

    Labor militants who really want to turn things around should look back to the 1930s and what really built the union movement, because with the kind of union leadership we have now, only defeat after defeat lies ahead. Industrial union-strong Michigan going “Right to Work” is the giant canary in the coal mine.

  2. orionATL says:

    democratic leaders are challenging republican sophistry?

    democratic leaders are making an effort to educate the public about other ways to look at a problem?

    what a novel idea.

    i wonder if they’ll now display the persistence and repetition that thst educational effort requires.

    that would bring a sea-change indeed in contemporary politics.

  3. klynn says:

    I’ll have to find it but I read an article that charted the stats on economic stagnation in RTW states due to lower wages reducing dollars spent on consuming and services by the middle class.

  4. steve says:

    Does the Right to Work law apply to workers represented by Public sector Unions too?

    If so, what has been the experience in those States when Closed Shop status changed to Open shop (Right to Work) status?

  5. Rangoon78 says:

    We are told the unemployment rate dipped to 7.7 percent in November (including nearly 5 million people who have gone without work for 27 weeks or longer.) the 7.7 percent figure was attained due to a decline of 350,000 in the labor market. There are now nearly 7 million Americans not counted as being in the labor force (and thus not counted as officially unemployed) they actually desire work, but are simply too discouraged to search.

    the functional role of mass unemployment: to suppress wages and ensure continued profitability. After all, without a mass reserve army of labor to decrease the demand for labor and bully the active workforce into a more pliant state of submission. This is a process one can clearly see in the wake of the present crisis.

    Sure the Koch brothers and ALEC openly attack workers rights but it’s not like we don’t realize that RTW came from Taft Hartley and that since 1947, even though the Dems have had control of both Houses and the Executive multiple times, they have never moved to repeal Taft Hartley. What they did though was strengthen Taft–Hartley through the introduction of Landrum-Griffin which was authored primarily by JFK.

    I’m glad to see Democrats (including President Obama) speaking out against this latest outrage, but as long as labor ties itself to the Democratic Party it’s all downhill from here.

  6. Rangoon78 says:

    @Rangoon78:
    And Truman on Taft-Hartley?

    American President: Harry S. Truman: Domestic Affairs

    With Congress in the hands of Republicans—rather than members of his own party who were lukewarm (at best) to his proposals—Truman could let GOP leaders try to master the challenging task of governance. Truman also could define himself in opposition to Republican initiatives and wage a rhetorical war against the Republican Party.

    Truman employed this strategy in several ways. In his January 1947 State of the Union address, he identified the need for legislation to solve the persistent problems of labor unrest and strikes. He offered no solution of his own, however, proposing only a temporary commission to study the issue and a declaration that he would sign no bill attacking organized labor.

    Republicans in Congress took up Truman’s challenge and passed the Taft-Hartley bill, which limited the power of labor unions by curbing union participation in politics, by approving state “right to work” laws, and by allowing the President to block strikes through a judicially mandated eighty day “cooling-off” period. Truman vetoed Taft-Hartley in June 1947, declaring that it “would take fundamental rights away from our working people.” Congress overrode the veto; Truman, in turn, vowed to carry out the law’s provisions and he even employed several of them—including the court injunction—to bring an end to some strikes. Nevertheless, in opposing Taft-Hartley, Truman recaptured the support of organized labor.
    http://millercenter.org/president/truman/essays/biography/4

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