What's happening in Michigan?
The term "right to work" is one of the more clever conservative phrases ---and you have to give them credit, they have come up with many clever phrases. But then they have to in order to hide the fact that their favored policies are unpopular.
Anyway, Rich Yeselsen has written a fascinating piece about what's happening in Michigan called This is not Wisconsin. It's worse., which includes a great discussion of the libertarian myopia surrounding this nonsense, the "states' rights" implementation of it since Taft-Hartley and the history of the UAW. (All in one essay!) But it also provides a very useful primer on what exactly has happened in Michigan that brought about the bizarre possibility of the home of the UAW becoming a right to work state:
Michigan’s labor movement looked at the aggressive moves over the past two years by Republicans throughout the Midwest—Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana—to roll back union rights. This past year, calculating that they were diminished, but not too diminished, the remnants of the UAW and the rest of the state’s labor movement took a chance. Via a referendum question, Proposal 2, it tried to permanently inscribe the right to collectively bargain into the state constitution in order to forestall a right-to-work move in the very birthplace of the once great UAW.
And here I thought the conservatives had been vanquished for all time.
The unions went all in, with a comprehensive, expensive campaign. They had several advantages that their peers in Wisconsin did not have when unions there attempted to recall Governor Scott Walker. The referendum was easy to understand, up or down on the constitutional right to collective bargaining. The referendum ran during a hard-fought presidential campaign, with Michigan, as always, a key state. Democratic turnout, and, thus, presumably, support for the union position would be high.
But Proposal 2 ran 12 points behind Barack Obama and lost 58-42. The decline that compelled the unions to lock in their rights paradoxically guaranteed they would lose. During the heyday of Cadillac Square, the right to collectively bargain was a potent fact on the ground. A constitutional imprimatur was beside the point.
The headcount said simply that the UAW and allied unions did not have the unqualified support of most Michigan voters. The unions could, and are, making some noise, but they wouldn’t create sufficient civil strife to defeat a right-to-work flip.
The loss provided what is called in an organizing drive a convenient “headcount” for corporations and their conservative Republican allies. The headcount said simply that the UAW and allied unions did not have the unqualified support of most Michigan voters. The unions could, and are, making some noise, but they wouldn’t create sufficient civil strife to defeat a right-to-work flip. The unions could be rolled, the more quickly the better, even during a lame-duck session. The savvy president of the UAW, Bob King, one of the most progressive union leaders in the country, promises not to give up and threatens recall elections. But state right-to-work laws have only been repealed once, in Indiana in 1965. Indiana reinstated right-to-work laws earlier this year.
As they say, read the whole thing. It's a helluva story and will provide some much needed context for the uproar. Yikes.