President Obama, Monday, drew a parallel between the divisive politics of the federal budget’s so-called fiscal cliff, and the politics of the Michigan governor’s fight against unions. “These so-called ‘right to work’ laws, they don’t have to do with economics; they have everything to do with politics,” he told a crowd of supporters at the new Daimler diesel plant, in Redford, Michigan, at a previously scheduled stop to push his call for a tax rate increase for top earners.
Saying the unions that thrived in the cradle of the American automotive industry “have helped build not just a stronger middle class but a stronger America,” Obama called the actions of Gov. Rick Snyder and the Michigan state legislature to remove rules regarding union membership in union shops, a politically vindictive choice rather than necessary legislation. He then used the familiar language of frustration, unmistakably similar to that used in the budget debate in Washington, DC. “[W]e’ve got to get past this whole situation where we manufacture crises because of politics,” he said.
Both these events – the fiscal cliff created by Congress’ stubborn ineptitude and the unexpected turnabout of Michigan’s Snyder on the unions who supported his election – the president went on to say, are attacks on the health of the American middle class, that benefits the wealthy at the expense of the rest of us. He urged “folks from our state’s capital, all the way to the nation’s capital, they should be focused on the same thing.”
“As we face nationally a fiscal cliff, and now face a Michigan cliff, if the right-to-work law passes, the governor will allow us to plunge into endless controversy,” Rep. Sandy Levin told the press, after a meeting of the entire Michigan Democratic Congressional delegation with the governor.
“We’re the place where the middle class began because of our industry, our ability to make things and the ability to have good wages and working conditions, and all that has come with collective bargaining in Michigan,” added Sen. Debbie Stabenow.
The Republicans think they are making life difficult for Democrats, when what they are really doing with their fight against the middle class in Washington and against unions in our industrial heartland is assaulting the middle class that built this country. With chisel and sledgehammer in hand, they are attacking everything that makes the American worker proud and independent. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the Koch Brothers empower the GOP hand as they bang away at the leg of capital “L” Labor, until it becomes a lowercase “l,” where this emasculated version of labor must depend only on the willingness of the employer to treat and pay them fairly, as individuals, without the power and support of union voice and, most importantly, its solidarity.
That is why unions are vital to middle class workers’ interests. When absolutely necessary, a union will stand for all its members, against management. Instead of being the lone petitioner for a raise or sick pay or vacation or overtime, one has the power of the brotherhood to stand with you, shoulder-to-shoulder.
Can the people of Michigan stand together, and fight this assault on their ability to bargain for better working conditions? They better. Otherwise, as Rep. John Conyers put it, “The result is going to be instead of Michigan united, Michigan divided.”