The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, December 21, 2012

RTW in Michigan: They said it:

By The Building Tradesman

Following are comments from state and national pundits on Michigan’s historic status as the nation’s latest – and unlikeliest – right-to-work state.

“Snyder had positioned himself as more moderate than (Wisconsin Gov.) Scott Walker and other GOP governors from the class of 2010. But the legislation he’s just passed is really more far reaching than the legislation Walker signed in Wisconsin or anything that’s been discussed in Ohio.

“In political terms this really does seem like the tipping point. For a long time the United States has existed as a ‘house divided’ in this regard. Democrats in states like Virginia and Nevada didn’t seriously try to repeal right-to-work laws, while Republicans in the Northeast and Midwest didn’t try to implement them. But if right-to-work can pass in Michigan, then why shouldn’t Republicans press for it in Wisconsin or Ohio or Pennsylvania?”

–Matt Yglesias, The Slate

“Yet here was Snyder telling the state its new model was Indiana – the state whose recent economic victories have included a batch of new Caterpillar jobs in Muncie that were moved from Ontario, where workers were paid twice as much as they will be in Indiana. Yes, the low-wage Midwest may become Canada’s Mexico – who knows, with global warming, the Great Lakes beaches may even attain spring-break status in the decades to come.”

– Alec MacGillis The New Republic

“There were no hearings, no public debate, and virtually no warning before the famously pro-labor state joined the Greater South in declaring itself union-unfriendly territory, as Gov. Rick Snyder abruptly reversed his prior opposition to consideration of such legislation. That very day the hammer came down in a series of votes.

“Also influencing (Snyder’s) decision, he said, were reports that some 90 companies had decided to locate in Indiana since that state adopted right-to-work legislation. ‘That’s thousands of jobs, and we want to have that kind of success in Michigan,’ he said.

OMG, Indiana’s screwing its workers, so Michigan has to do the same right now! This is very literally a ‘race to the bottom’ if ever there has been one.”

– Ed Kilgore, Washington Monthly

“Right-to-work advocates always claim their states are creating more jobs than union states — which holds some truth, if you just look at the sheer number of jobs created.

“But of the 11 states with the fastest-growing economies as measured by gross domestic product, only three were right-to-work states in 2011. (Michigan was on that list in 2011, too, which Snyder spent all year this year bragging about. Now, suddenly, he claims our economy is being hobbled by an oppressive union environment.)

‘As a result, right-to-work states also suffer much worse poverty than union states, by several important measures.

“Eight of the 10 states with the lowest overall per-capita incomes are right-to-work. And among the states with the highest rates of people without medical insurance (a sign of the quality of jobs available), seven of 10 are right-to-work. Eight of the 10 states with the highest poverty rates are right-to-work.

“Why would Michigan want to emulate those states?”

– Stephen Henderson, Detroit Free Press

“Defenders of right-to-work laws argue that they improve a state’s economy by creating more jobs. But an exhaustive study by economist Lonnie K. Stevans of Hofstra University found that states that have enacted such laws reported no increase in business start-ups or rates of employment. Wages and personal income are lower in those states than in those without such laws, Stevans concluded, though proprietors’ incomes are higher. In short, right-to-work laws simply redistribute income from workers to owners.

“Why, then, are such (RTW) laws being enacted? The gap between U.S. capital income and labor income hasn’t been this great since before the New Deal; why widen it still more? The answer, in Lansing no less than in Beijing, is political. The Republicans who took control of the Michigan statehouse in 2010 understand that Democrats’ foot soldiers come disproportionately from labor. GOP efforts to reduce labor’s clout help Republicans politically far more than they help any Michigan-based businesses or local governments.

“Michigan Republicans have seen a chance to weaken the UAW and labor’s power at election time. Doing so further diminishes the number of workers who can bargain for a raise. It’s nice that conservatives are finally acknowledging that workers’ incomes are stagnating. But workers don’t get raises if they can’t bargain collectively, and all the hand-wringing about our rising rates of inequality will be so much empty rhetoric unless we insist – in Lansing and Beijing – on workers’ right to form powerful unions.

– Harold Myerson, The Washington Post

“And by the way, what we shouldn’t do – I just got to say this – what we shouldn’t be doing is trying to take away your rights to bargain for better wages and working conditions. 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.

“You only have to look to Michigan — where workers were instrumental in reviving the auto industry – to see how unions have helped build not just a stronger middle class but a stronger America.”

President Barack Obama, at the Detroit Diesel plant in Redford Twp., Dec. 10.