One month after a union backed proposition aimed at enshrining collective bargaining rights in the Michigan constitution failed, Republican lawmakers are pushing right-to-work legislation through the lame-duck session.
National unions spent $23 million trying to pass Proposal 2, which would have added collective bargaining to the state constitution and overruled 170 laws already on the books. But Proposal 2 failed with 58 percent of Michigan voters deciding against it in last month's election.
Now Governor Rick Snyder and the state's Republican legislature have teamed up to push something that once would have been unthinkable in Michigan, right-to-work legislation. For the first two years of his term, Governor Snyder affirmed that he supported collective bargaining and denied any interest in right-to-work legislation. That changed with a video he release this morning. Governor Snyder makes two arguments in support of the legislation. First that it is fair to allow workers to choose whether or not to be part of a union and second that it will help Michigan compete with states like Indiana which recently passed similar legislation:
Today I want to talk to you about workplace fairness and equity. I'm often right-to-work by many people but I think workplace-fairness-and-equity is a better way to describe it because it's about being pro-worker and given workers the freedom to choose who they associate with.
If you look at it, this is an issue that I said was not on my agenda for some time. And why did I say that? Only about 17 1/2 percent of our workers in this state belong to a union, most people do not so it wasn't a relevant issue for most Michaganders. But if you step back and look at it, we're losing a major competitive advantage. Indiana has become a right-to-work state and I've looked at their pipeline. They've significantly increased the number of businesses looking to come to Indiana and grow in Indiana due to this legislation.
So there are two main reasons I'm asking the Michigan legislature to move forward with a package of bills on workplace-fairness-and-equity and I'm going to sign those bills when they come to my desk. First it's about being pro-worker. It's about hard working Michiganders having the freedom to choose who they associate with. I encourage unions to be more pro-active in presenting the case as to why it's good to belong to a union and why people would want to join. But ultimately I want to be pro-worker and say the worker should have the ultimate decision should they belong or not.
The second one is about being more healthy in Michigan in terms of our economy. If you look at the numbers the last two years we've done well, we've added over 140,000 jobs. We're forecasted to add another 110,000 jobs over the next two years. But if you add that up that's only 250,000 jobs. We've lost over 750,000 jobs during the years 2000-2010. I want to see that rate go up to even be bigger and better. And when I looked at Indiana, here's an opportunity to see that pace increase.
So for two good reasons it's time to look at workplace-fairness-and-equity in Michigan and be pro-worker. First, workers should have the freedom to choose. And second, it will help with our economic growth. So I encourage the legislature to get this done, to pass these bills so I can sign them. And I encourage all Michiganders to support this legislation because it's about the right thing for hard-working Michigan workers and it's the right thing for our economic growth.
Even as Governor Snyder comes out for the legislation, Democrats are digging in their heels. On the state senate floor in Lansing, Democrats insisted that each bill be read aloud three times, a procedure which is usually waived, in order to bring progress to a halt.
The Democratic Minority leader called the right-to-work proposal "an act of political retribution." House Minority Leader Rich Hammel spoke against the legislation at a meeting inside the state house and told the Detroit News that if they don't want to be union members workers "have a right to find a job with a non-union employer."
Meanwhile, a few hundred union members filled the state capitol rotunda and chanted slogans including "hey, hey, ho, ho, right-to-work has to go." Unions are hoping they can prevent a vote during the lame-duck session and instead turn this into a long term fight via ballot initiative. The video released today by Governor Snyder suggests he and fellow Republicans are not interested in any further delay.