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Michigan

[ 116 ] December 13, 2012 |

I’ve been remiss in not talking about the Michigan right to work disaster. Part of it is that it’s so bloody depressing, part is that I’m really focusing on my book and thus have reduced some of the political writing. That said, my basic thought on the matter is that organized labor failed pretty massively in Michigan. It put its eggs into the ballot measure basket that would have enshrined collective bargaining in the state constitution. That failed miserably, but it was a good idea. The problem here is that labor operates too much like a political get out of the vote machine these days. That means that it can move people on election day but there’s a hangover in the aftermath. Michigan Republicans clearly took advantage of this and labor was caught completely flat-footed. Why anyone believed Rick Snyder when he said he wouldn’t pursue right to work is beyond me. Labor shouldn’t believe Democratic politicians but it sure should NEVER trust a Republican. The reality is that the United Auto Workers is simply not set up for mass mobilization and long-term campaigns in 2012. That structure was taken apart long ago, starting even back in the Reuther days and the UAW simply has not found a way back to the mass mobilizations that made it great.

Supposedly the UAW is going to make Michigan Republicans pay in 2014. Well maybe. But labor does not win through playing politics as its primary tool. Will it force a future Democratic governor to sign a law repealing right to work? I liked the ballot measure because it’s so rare for labor to play offense in the 21st century, but it’s dismal failure was not promising for the future.

Elizabeth Shermer is more optimistic than I am.

….Also, in a good entry for a black comedy contest, one Republican legislator tried to make an exemption in the right to work bill to include correctional officers. Why? Her husband is a correctional officer.

Comments (116)

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  1. Richard says:

    Ms. Shermer states that the right to work legislation is a response to a reinvigorated union movement. That seems to be much more than optimism. More like delusional.

    Aside from voting the Republican legislators out in Michigan and repealing the law, is there any ballot provision that can repeal the law or is that not possible under Michigan law?

    • witless chum says:

      The Michigan constitution doesn’t allow repeal of a law that had an appropriation attached to it, so they attached a meaningless appropriation to this to avoid having it have to face repeal.

      • rea says:

        The Michigan constitution doesn’t allow repeal of a law that had an appropriation attached to it

        Or rather, does not allow appeal by referendum.

      • Aaron says:

        That’s a problem with the Constitution – an unintended consequence of a provision meant to address only actual spending provisions – that a legislature acting in good faith would try to fix, as opposed to exploit. Which is to say, it’s been exploited on a routine basis from the day it was first noticed.

        • rea says:

          It’s far from clear to me that the Legislature’s ploy in this regard will be successful. It would be funny if the law gets sttruck down as violating the Title/Object clause of the state constitution . . .

          • Richard says:

            But isn’t the only way to challenge it is to get enough signatures to put a repeal measure on the ballot and then get a ruling as to whether a referendum can be mounted? that seems a not very enticing course of action. The other strategy is to get a Democratic majority and a Democratic governor in power and repeal the law but is that likely to happen in the near future?

            Do you see any other way to get the bill reversed?

            • mds says:

              It can be effectively repealed by initiative rather than referendum, which is a higher bar to clear, but would not require a court ruling on its legitimacy. Referenda are for approving or rejecting laws enacted by the legislature. Initiatives allow the general population to propose and enact legislation, and are not subject to the appropriations restriction. So a law that effectively repealed right-to-work could be proposed by the statutory initiative process, and if not acted upon by the legislature, would be placed on the ballot at the next general election.

    • Dana Houle says:

      The Repubs doing this has nothing to do with the referendums. The emergency manager repeal was pushed by labor and labor won that huge. But what did the Republicans do last night? They passed a new, almost identical version of the same law the voters repealed only 36 days earlier.

      The problem with the collective bargaining proposal was that it required a yes vote. Michigan isn’t California or Arizona. It almost never amends the constitution in any way that’s controversial. The only things I can think of since the early 90′s that were controversial were the ban on assisted suicide in 1998 and the ban on gay marriage in 2004. There was some opposition to the stem cell amendment in 2006, but that’s an issue that has about 80% support in the public, and it was fairly easy to understand the proposal. But since 1963, when the current constitution was passed, there have been something like 21 attempts to amend the section of the constitution that would have changed had the collective bargaining proposal passed. Only 2 of those 21 proposals succeeded.

      One can argue that there’s a connection between the amendment failing and the GOP pushing RtW, but I don’t find it persuasive. The bills were out there for two years. Snyder and the Sen majority leader (Richardville) had both said they didn’t want them. Then, despite the pro-Romney SuperPAC’s spending about $30m in Michigan and Obama only doing one week of ads, in February, Obama won it easily and Dems picked up seats in the massively gerrymandered state house. Labor didn’t look weak as much as they looked like a lasting impediment to Dick DeVos’s dreams of wiping out public schools through vouchers and imposing this reactionary Christian version of Sharia law. So, he went to Snyder and Richardville, as well as several other Repubs who didn’t want to push RtW, and told them if they didn’t get on board he would bury them in the next primary.

      This is entirely Dick DeVos, and while it really screws labor, it also was a death penalty on Snyder’s reelection. The wingers still don’t like him, but now everyone else sees him as Dick DeVos’ bitch. He had deceptively convinced people he was a non-ideological problem solver. Now it’s clear he’s a political rube with no backbone who takes his orders from a guy who outspent Granholm 3-1 only to lose by 18 points.

      If you judge the RtW attack as about the weakness of labor, you would also have to conclude the party who goes in to next year with less power than they have today thinks everyone is weaker. In the last few days they have passed or are in the process of passing laws to let people carry guns in to public schools, to hunt the Grey Wolf, horribly restrictive abortion provisions, a ban on Sharia law, an elimination of a tax on the wealthy, a nearly identical version of a law voters overwhelmingly rejected five weeks ago and god knows what else. This wasn’t specifically about labor, although that rightly got the most attention. It’s about the Republicans wanting their state to become Michississippi, and Dick DeVos using his billions to force them to be political shock troops for the Oliver Cromwell of pyramid schemes, randian economics and the social policies of the Jihadis.

      • Linnaeus says:

        Michigan has gotten swept up in the next wave of neofeudalism.

      • “So, he went to Snyder and Richardville, as well as several other Repubs who didn’t want to push RtW, and told them if they didn’t get on board he would bury them in the next primary.”

        That’s what everybody keeps saying, and it certainly makes perfect sense, but has there been any actual reporting on that? I realize it’d be difficult, none of them have any incentive to talk, but have there been any public rumblings of a dump Snyder primary? Did DeVos say anything unusually sleazy? I haven’t seen anything, but I’m only casually plugged into state politics.

        Assuming it is true, that means the scary/funny (depending on how you want to look at it) thing is that Snyder fears his own party more than he fears the general electorate. Either way, this certainly looks like it’s going to make his re-election bid tougher sledding. Before this I figured he’d just keep oozing by and win a ho-hum second term. Now, not so much.

        • Dana Houle says:

          I worked in the MI lege for four years, have a lot of friends in labor and politics in MI. Heard it from several reliable sources.

        • Linnaeus says:

          That’s what everybody keeps saying, and it certainly makes perfect sense, but has there been any actual reporting on that?

          Here’s some reporting from Reuters:

          The right-to-work campaign gathered momentum when the activists linked up with Dick DeVos, the son of Richard DeVos, co-founder of Michigan-based Amway, and Ronald Weiser, former chairman of the Michigan Republican Party and ambassador to Slovakia under President George W. Bush.

          Richard DeVos was listed as the 67th richest person in America by Forbes magazine in 2012 with a net worth estimated at $5.1 billion. Amway sells consumer goods such as skincare and home cleaning supplies through some 3 million people and its parent company had sales of $10.9 billion in 2011.

          “Dick DeVos and Ron Weiser travel in a certain rarefied atmosphere,” Colbeck said, holding his hand above his head to indicate how far above him they are.

          The wealthy businessman and the political guru both worked to persuade wavering Republican lawmakers by assuring them they would have financial support if they faced recall elections over right-to-work, as happened in Wisconsin, Colbeck, Hoogendyk and other Republicans said.

          Now that’s not the same as threatening to primary wavering Republicans, but it does say something about how influential DeVos was in all of this. I wouldn’t be surprised if the flip side of this promised support was, “if you don’t go along, you just might find yourself in trouble.”

      • Linnaeus says:

        This is entirely Dick DeVos, and while it really screws labor, it also was a death penalty on Snyder’s reelection. The wingers still don’t like him, but now everyone else sees him as Dick DeVos’ bitch. He had deceptively convinced people he was a non-ideological problem solver. Now it’s clear he’s a political rube with no backbone who takes his orders from a guy who outspent Granholm 3-1 only to lose by 18 points.

        This message needs to be communicated continuously and relentlessly. Whatever people in Michigan may think of “right to work” or labor, they don’t like DeVos much. Make it clear over and over whom Snyder actually serves. It will take a while, but it will stick.

  2. rea says:

    Why anyone believed Rick Snyder when he said he wouldn’t pursue right to work is beyond me.

    Well, it seemed credible, because it was well-known that the Republicans in the Legislature wanted to pursue it, Snyder told them in public to back off, and they did. Then, of course, once the election was safely past, it was a different story.

    • John says:

      Also, Republicans in traditionally labor friendly states have, traditionally, not been particularly anti-labor – at least not in the sense of pushing through controversial anti-labor legislation. This was a new thing that really started after the 2010 elections, and I don’t see why it’s so unreasonable to think that someone like Snyder would continue that.

      Here in Pennsylvania, where Corbett has been significantly more anti-labor in his rhetoric than Snyder was heretofore, it seems clear nothing like this will happen, because there’s too many pro-labor Republicans in the state legislature – remarkably, only 9 of 30 Republicans in the State Senate, and only 35 of 112 in the State House were willing to sponsor right to work legislation.

      Is Pennsylvania the only state left with pro-labor Republicans at this point?

      • mds says:

        Also, Republicans in traditionally labor friendly states have, traditionally, not been particularly anti-labor – at least not in the sense of pushing through controversial anti-labor legislation.

        Indeed, this is why they’re stampeding all this stuff through in the lame-duck session: even with continued GOP control of both chambers, they wouldn’t have the votes for union-busting in the next legislative session, given several Republican legislators’ opposition. I’m guessing this is also why they’re galloping through “conscience clause” gobshitery to kick women in the face some more.

  3. Anonymous says:

    That failed miserably, but it was a good idea.

    Around here, good ideas are basically settled by whether or not they can win the popular vote.

    They should have scrapped the constitutional idea and focused on the best solution that was sure to succeed.

      • Dana Houle says:

        Actually, Anon is 100% right. As I explained upthread, ballot proposals that require a yes vote lose almost every single time in Michigan. If your chance of passing your amendment is almost zero, and it’s not to get back something you’ve lost, it’s probably not a good idea to do it. It’s like the WI recall, where probably 5-8% of likely Dem voters weren’t going to vote to recall Walker. If the chances of success are very low and the costs of failure may be high–if nothing else, expenditure of resources that could have been used more profitably–than it’s usually better to do no harm.

        • Fake Irishman says:

          Early polling on it was pretty good. We knew it was a risk, but they were picking us apart steadily (limiting the ability to negotiate over health insurance premiums. Banning teachers from having payroll deductions of dues, banning research assistants from forming a union, banning home-care workers from forming unions, drastically narrowing teacher tenure), so we figured we’d roll the dice.

          • Dana Houle says:

            But that’s the common pattern. When DeVos put vouchers on the ballot in 2000 it started out winning about 2-1. It lost 2-1. It’s like that with almost every issue that’s controversial. And there’s a big difference between a poll result on an issue that’s explained and getting the no vote.

        • Erik Loomis says:

          What are anonymous friend is doing is taking gratuitous potshots at Lemieux. That’s how he (certainly) is being an idiot.

    • witless chum says:

      Any suggestions?

    • Murc says:

      Around here, good ideas are basically settled by whether or not they can win the popular vote.

      I don’t think I’d want to live where you do, then, because that’s an awful metric for whether something is a good idea or not.

      • Anonymous says:

        I learned it from Obama himself, well I guess with Lemieux as proxy.

        Only the unserious pushes for anything that isn’t a sure thing. They should have watered it down until they got enough support on board.

        • Murc says:

          I learned it from Obama himself, well I guess with Lemieux as proxy.

          Really? I am curious as to where and how you learned this from either of them, as it conflicts with much of Scott’s body of work. Perhaps you could provide a link? I’d enjoy reading Scott undercutting himself so thoroughly.

          • Aaron says:

            (If you’re doing it for the joy of holding little pieces of bait in the air and seeing how high he can jump, that can be fun – and may make for a popular YouTube video. But if not, do keep in mind that you’re feeding the trolls.)

            • Murc says:

              To an extent, I suppose. I find the Socratic approach useful because either the putative troll will actually take the time to make a real argument (it might be a bad one, but it will be real) or will say something so transparently ludicrous their effectiveness as a troll is diminished.

              Either way the commentariat is improved.

          • Anonymous says:

            I learned it from Scott’s vindications of Obama’s health care negotiations.

            If the votes aren’t there to do what’s right, do what your absolutely sure the votes are there for.

            • Murc says:

              If the votes aren’t there to do what’s right, do what your absolutely sure the votes are there for.

              This is true, yes, but your original position was that whether something was a good idea or not is determined by the ability to secure votes for it, yes?

              “We don’t have the votes for this good idea, so we’ll settle for doing this less-good-but-better-than-the-status-quo idea instead” is something we could argue over for awhile, but it’s entirely separate from determining what is and isn’t a good idea to begin with.

              • Cody says:

                You seem to be teaching him pretty well.

                He has already developed a “move the goalpost” strategy. It’s like watching Troll Evolution right in front of your eyes!

            • RedSquareBear says:

              If the votes aren’t there to do what’s right, do what your absolutely sure the votes are there for.

              And it’s your position that this is a bad thing?

              You are aware that last stands are only seen as romantic through the smoked lens of History. And usually not seen that way (or at all) by those who went through them?

              Fuck you, fuck your whole loafism. Get your miserable, worthless troll ass back under the bridge.

              • The Breadmaster says:

                the problem is that so many “half a loafers” such as yourself and Lemieux seem to think the only alternative to a full loaf is no loaf, so think any moldy crust is a good deal and the best that could ever have been achieved. But we’ll never know because a full loaf was not even on the table.

                • Murc says:

                  the problem is that so many “half a loafers” such as yourself and Lemieux seem to think the only alternative to a full loaf is no loaf, so think any moldy crust is a good deal and the best that could ever have been achieved.

                  Scott thinks that? You got a quote?

  4. witless chum says:

    To me, the fact that Snyder did this immediately after the election confirms the unions were right to try the ballot measure to amend the constitution. Snyder was saying it “wasn’t on his agenda” but the unions can read a calendar as well as anyone and could see that if he was going to do it, now would be the time. One interpretation of their action is that they didn’t trust him and tried to beat him to the punch.

    A big part of the ballot measure fail was outside the unions control as billionaire asshole Matty Maroun paid to have two ballot measures put on in revenge for the state trying to build a second bridge over the Detroit River which made it worth it for the union opponents and Snyder to wage a “no on everything campaign” that was very rhetorically effective.

    There was also clean energy mandate and another minor union initiative, so the by running “no on everything” ads, conservatives only had to sacrifice the new Emergency Manager law and the two Maroun initiatives (statewide vote on new international bridges and a supermajority requirement to raise any tax that only the wingnuttiest didn’t want.

    • witless chum says:

      Sorry, last sentence should be “only the wingnuttiest WANTED.”

    • Richard says:

      “To me, the fact that Snyder did this immediately after the election confirms the unions were right to try the ballot measure to amend the constitution”

      But the ballot measure got destroyed – 58% to 42%. I just don’t see how getting killed on this helped anything. And the scope of the loss seemed to have emboldened the Republicans to take anti-union measures.

      Also, and I don’t know the answer to this, would the ballot proposal have prevented what happened? As I read the news reports, it would have put the right to collectively bargain in the state constitution (thereby preventing a Wisconsin scenario) but it didn’t seem to address right-to-work. Since the right to work bill did not ban collective bargaining, couldn’t the right to work bill have been passed anyway?

      • witless chum says:

        IANALL, but way they presented it, enshrining collective bargaining into the constitution would have banned this, because right to work says that you can’t bargain for a union shop.

        The ballot measure would have also gotten rid of a bunch of recently-passed legislation which restricted other subjects of bargaining, like teacher evaluation procedures and public employee’s percentage of contribution to health care plans.

        But the ballot measure got destroyed – 58% to 42%. I just don’t see how getting killed on this helped anything. And the scope of the loss seemed to have emboldened the Republicans to take anti-union measures.

        My guess would be they were surprised by the extent of the loss and probably thought of it as a gamble. But, anecdotally, a lot of people were voting no on everything and the union leadership probably didn’t count on having a well-funded “no on everything” campaign.

      • Fake Irishman says:

        No, keeping RTW was implicit in the language of the amendment — there was a section that banned laws that limited the scope of issues that could be negotiated at the table. A union security clause is one of those subjects of negotiation.

  5. witless chum says:

    The problem they’re facing to try to hit back electorally is that the Republicans have gerrymandered the state legislative and congressional districts all to hell. Obama and Debbie Stabenow won easily here in November, but we still have a Republican state house.

    Personally, the heavily Democratic township I live in got moved from a district that was something like 52-48 for the Republican in the state house race in 2008 to one that was already 65 to 70 percent Democrat, pushing it up above 80 percent or so.

  6. Bruce Vail says:

    Your pont about mass mobilization deserves more comment.

    I am not going to be critical of my union brothers and sisters, but I was appalled at the news reports that the demonstration in Lansing attracted only about 15,000 people (probably a generous estimate). That is a crappy turnout for such an important issue in a place like Michigan.

    • Erik Loomis says:

      It wasn’t good, that’s for sure.

    • Murc says:

      I actually question the efficacy of demonstrations. Does anyone really care about them these days? I mean, I’m not sure they even raise awareness that much.

      The reason the Occupy movement got press is because it wasn’t just a bunch of people showing up, demonstrating in a peaceful and legal fashion, and then vanishing. They actually occupied shit. That makes it a front-page story as opposed to one paragraph.

      • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

        See Quinn Norton’s excellent, if fairly depression, assessment of Occupy [h/t CT]:

        The policing of protest in America makes it clear that protest has become mere ritual, a farce, and that, by definition, it becomes illegal if it threatens to change anything or inconvenience anyone. In time, all the police announcements came to say the same thing to me. “You may go through your constitutional ritual,” they intoned, “but it must stop before anything of consequence happens.” We must, above all, preserve everything as it is.

        • Erik Loomis says:

          The police presence against protests is no greater now than it was 100 years ago.

          That’s an excuse.

          I may need to comment on this further.

          • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

            The point I was trying to make, Erik, is not that protest is quantitatively more policed now than it was then, but rather that it’s less effective now than it was then.

            That’s not a reason not to protest (at least not in my book), but standard marches or rallies by themselves are not going to accomplish much. The largest antiwar demonstrations in the nation’s history took place in late 2002 and early 2003 and the political and media elites basically simply ignored them.

          • Murc says:

            The police presence against protests is no greater now than it was 100 years ago.

            Yeah, but didn’t protestors a hundred years ago do things that were more explicitly illegal? For that matter, wasn’t the environment sufficiently different then?

            It took me a long time to suss this out, because history books tend to elide the fact or understate it, but after awhile I realized that the reason a huge mob of people showing up somewhere to demonstrate for or against something was considered a big deal was the implied notion that they might turn violent.

            The labor movement didn’t score the gains it did back in the day because a bunch of guys with placards showed up and the plutocrats went “holy shit, people don’t like how we do business. We had no idea! Better change things” the way a lot of history books imply, like it was just a matter of making a moral case and the goodness of America would take care of the rest.

            It was because the guys with placards were willing to physically shut things down, with a side order of “maybe we start setting shit on fire.”

            (This is part of the reason police response to otherwise peaceful, non-violent protests that don’t inconvenience anyone always baffles me. If a bunch of hippies want to camp in the park, let’em. They’ll get bored and go home eventually, and nothing will change. But if you crack heads, suddenly people pay attention.)

            • Aaron says:

              Placards?

              My wife’s late grandfather once told her that he participated in “labor negotiations” (UAW vs. GM) in the 1950′s. “I brought the baseball bats”.

              • Aaron says:

                (Don’t get me wrong here – if you know the history, you also know that union protestors who were not prepared to defend themselves often ended up wishing they had been – he wasn’t engaging in proactive violence, but he did see the necessity of being able to demonstrate the capacity.)

            • Lee says:

              A lot of the early labor protests like Haymarket tried to be as peaceful and orderly as possible in order not to scare too many people. It was mainly after Haymarket that the labor protests grew more strident in their actions.

              I think that a fairly major problem was that a decent portion of the American working and lower middle class, who formed the bedrock of socialism in Europe, was always opposed to the labor movement. Its why immigrants usually played a larger role in the labor movement than White Protestant Americans.

            • The Breadmaster says:

              and this won’t happen now because “the left” has been taken over by half a loafers who are perfectly wiling to trade away any principles they might have left

          • Dana Houle says:

            But one difference from back then is the size of workplaces. When the Rouge plant went on the strike that led to the recognition of the UAW, that was by itself 35,000 strikers, and most of them lived within 10 miles of the plant. Today, the largest unionized facilities are seldom more than a couple thousand people, and they live all over the place. It makes organizing large events harder than 50 or 100 years ago

          • Dana Houle says:

            [BTW, I say this with the experience of having been the "police liaison" on about 30 residential pickets and civil disobedience actions, as well as a half dozen incidents where we were attacked by paramilitary guards employed by the company. I'm not disputing your point about the police. In fact, while they are sometimes completely on the side of the company, they're generally much better than they were 100 years ago. But one reason you don't get mass mobilizations today is strikers and even union members aren't in communities where workers are of the same ethnicity, maybe come from the same villages in Europe, or have clan or family bonds. People are far more atomized than 100 or 75 or 50 years ago.]

        • JL says:

          I hung out with Quinn on the night of our raid and the night before, talking to her for a couple of hours. She’s an excellent journalist (and that article made me tear up).

          There are many things she says in that article that I agree with (our GA never got as bad as OWS’, but Fuck the GA), a few that I don’t really (though of course I tend to see things through a local lens), but one thing that rings very true is that the repercussions of Occupy go beyond Occupy. Thousands of people were politicized, were radicalized, learned to organize, will continue to be politically active in or out of Occupy. I run into them in other activist contexts.

      • jasonk says:

        I was in the Capitol building in Lansing and saw, what I thought was a really disappointing episode. Many folks wanted to occupy the rotunda, some were Occupy Detroit, Lansing, Flint etc, but many were U Michigan grad students who are members of GEO (Graduate Employees Organization) local of the AFT. Yellow vested “marshals” mostly from the MEA (Michigan Education Association) basically shut them down and demanded that they clear passages–guaranteeing that they wouldn’t get arrested.

        I was expecting some type of civil disobedience–The UAW held a training where 200 people showed up. But Bob King was nowhere to be found. There was an amazingly large police presence, but I don’t think the State Police would have pepper sprayed King, Richard Trumka, or other major labor leaders if they had committed themselves to making such a gesture.

        The protest was aimless. Loomis is right that the UAW (and many other unions) not prepared to take the steps necessary to truly lead any type of movement. The protesters were ready. People from the trades especially were hurling invective at the cops, but they were leaderless.

        The UAW in Michigan will survive this–but this survival is part of its weakness. It gets tens of millions of dollars from the Big Three in “joint” funds that pay for many of its staffers and much of its operations. It simply doesn’t depend upon dues anymore, simply the largess of the companies it is supposed to confront. I recommend everybody read “Reviving the Strike” by Joe Burns. It basically says that unions need to shed themselves of many of their financial commitments so won’t have assets that can be seized by courts when they engage in “illegal” activity, such as secondary boycotts, mass civil disobedience. Its the best book on labor I have read in quite awhile.

        • JL says:

          Oh goddamn I hate peace marshals. I’m a pro-nonviolence type, I’m a medic of all things, I’ve complained about lack of internal security at actions providing a breeding ground for agents provocateurs, I’m exactly the sort you’d think would approve of that role. And before I had ever interacted with them I couldn’t understand why more experienced protesters hated them. But every time I’ve actually been at an action that had them, they’ve been mildly irritating and detrimental at best and dangerous to others at worst.

          • rea says:

            Oh goddamn I hate peace marshals.

            And yet, yesterday the Michigan Democratic Party was apologizing to some poor hot dog vendor whose stand got trashed. That shit shouldn’t happen.

            • JL says:

              You’re correct. It shouldn’t. Like I said, in theory, given my views about tactics, I should like the peace marshals.

              Unfortunately, every time I’ve been at an action that had peace marshals, they were more concerned with hassling and sometimes endangering people they disapprove of.

              One time I was a medic in the black bloc section of a march, at a mobilization where there had already been serious police brutality, and we we were pretty sure that police were going to target the bloc. Which had not done anything smashy and had explicitly advertised itself as there to protect other marchers. The peace marshals soft-locked to split up the bloc, making it easier for police to target anyone in that part of the march.

              Another time, in a different city, they tried to split a peaceful march in half because they thought that one half was too politically radical, and my innocuous medic buddy almost had a panic attack at facing a sudden barricade from fellow protesters, and I had to pull her to the side to calm her down.

              Another time, in a city where street marches are routine, they got mad at me for stepping into the street to move further up in the march because there were already too many medics near the back.

        • Dana Houle says:

          RICO lawsuits exist. They’re used against labor unions (including against the UAW during the Detroit Newspaper strike, although that case was dismissed when the newspaper unions accepted the back to work offer). And you almost always lose the media wars when you do that kind of stuff. Not always, and labor should never take it completely off the table. But there are consequences, and it’s damn important to be aware of all of them and make cold calculations that often lead to unsatisfying but inescapable conclusions.

          • jasonk says:

            Have you read the Burns book, because this attitude is exactly what he is arguing against. Burns is a labor lawyer and knows how RICO threats have inhibited action. His whole point is that the “cold calculations” of the last 30 years have lead to the decline of labor. It doesn’t matter if a how supposedly realistic and calculating a union acts if it doesn’t have any members or ability to exert power.

            Also it is interesting how you state how “you almost always lose the media wars” with mass action. You sound exactly like the “liberals” (his word) with whom Martin Luther King is arguing in “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” They argued that mass arrests, putting children in harms way, creating inconvenience would just turn people off. I guess history showed that you can never tell which way the “media wars” are going to go.

            • Dana Houle says:

              Yes, TO THE BARRICADES!

              I’ve been attacked on picket lines. I’ve been rammed in the back with a riot shield. I’ve had my family harassed. But I’ll take your word for it that I’m the problem, and you know everything.

              [Psst, btw, the guy whose leadership on civil disobedience and strike support got the UAW in that RICO lawsuit in 1995-1997 was the director of UAW Region 1-A. Guy named Bob King.]

          • JL says:

            The media wars are really hard. It’s true that if you get too militant, even if you’re not really doing anything unreasonable, you can lose pretty quickly. But it hasn’t been my impression (as another person who has been to a bunch of protests and been attacked by riot police) that mere nonviolent civil disobedience will lose you the media war. Most people who are turned off by that are turned off by protest, period. There will always be some subset of the media that will portray you as terrible and evil no matter how innocuous you are.

            Again, I don’t want to downplay your concern here, because it’s a valid one. I’m just not sure the line of too much risk is where you think it is. If they started smashing up the building, they’d probably lose the media war.

            • Dana Houle says:

              Yeah, good points, I don’t disagree. I won’t parse things too much on the specifics of the Capitol protest, I was reacting more to the implied notion that if unions would just become militant that labor would bring capital to its knees. We agree things are far more complicated than that.

          • rea says:

            you almost always lose the media wars when you do that kind of stuff

            Although you ain’t going to win the media wars when you’re striking the newpapers, anyway

  7. Peter Hovde says:

    They can’t repeal by referendum, but they apparently can by ballot initiative-That seems to mean more signatures are needed, but they can probably get them.

  8. Linnaeus says:

    My December trip to Michigan is going to be a barrel of fun this year, that’s for sure.

  9. Incontinentia Buttocks says:

    Today’s GOP has an absolutely clear ideological agenda and (by American standards) extraordinary party discipline. They will continue to pursue that agenda in a single-minded fashion, regardless of what happens in elections, which can only make them change tactics, not goals. Even if one believes that November’s results suggest that the GOP will have trouble achieving 50% of the popular vote without making changes it’s not going to make, little comfort can be taken from that fact, given that the party will have no trouble achieving at least 45% of the popular vote and that it is willing and able to gerrymander districts so that such results yield legislative majorities at the state and federal level.

    I’m not sure what the appropriate political response to these facts is. But expecting the GOP to either fundamentally change or totally disintegrate is truly foolish.

  10. Vladimir says:

    The Republicans have also passed legislation that would require clinics performing abortions to be regulated like other clinics providing outpatient care. This is to provide a high standard of care; to make sure that women are safe and not to close down as many clinics performing abortions as possible. Right.

  11. Scott Lemieux says:

    Also, in a good entry for a black comedy contest, one Republican legislator tried to make an exemption in the right to work bill to include correctional officers. Why? Her husband is a correctional officer.

    Miss America conservatism,” Mark Schmitt called it.

  12. daveNYC says:

    I’m not sure what the Labor Movement could do to prevent this though. It’s an all Republican government in a lame duck session.

    • mds says:

      Yeah, I thought this bit from Professor Loomis:

      Michigan Republicans clearly took advantage of this and labor was caught completely flat-footed.

      was peculiar, too. What exactly were they supposed to do to change this outcome post-election? Come January, there probably weren’t going to be the votes to pass this, so how does one pressure lame-duck legislators not to bring up legislation they’ve had in the works ever since ALEC photocopied and distributed it? Working on the governor probably wouldn’t make a lot of headway against the Amway money, either.

    • Erik Loomis says:

      It’s possible that they could have done nothing that would have prevented it. The fact that they were not prepared to do anything and were absolutely shell-shocked by it is the bigger issue.

      • Fake Irishman says:

        “shell-shocked” is a bit over the top. We knew it was coming and were taking steps to prevent it. We had hundreds of rank-and-file members from all over the state combing the capitol’s hallways during the last week of November to lobby GOP targets (and had some success). That was combined with petitions, high-level efforts to delay. local rallies, phone banking, media outreach. Could we have done better? Certainly, but we weren’t completely unprepared.

        • Erik Loomis says:

          Fair enough–obviously you are on the ground. But it certainly reads and feels as being pretty unprepared from the outside.

          • Dana Houle says:

            I won’t say they were prepared, or at least sufficiently. But one big difference in MI vs OH, IN and especially WI is that there actually were reason to believe that maybe Snyder and Richardville would block it, and they kept an open door with labor. I honestly believe Snyder didn’t want the controversy, and Richardville isn’t Howard Metzenbaum but he’s actually worked OK with the building trades over the years. I think had it not been for DeVos jumping in that Richardville would have kept it off the floor, and Snyder would have continued to publicly oppose it.

            Greater “militancy” would have better prepared labor for the post-election response, but in the end, the only way to block it was probably to keep Snyder and Richardvillle on their side. I know quite a bit about what happened, and I can’t say if they were right in using the softer approach or if they should have always expected the fold and just said fuck it and politically blow the place up. I think it’s a tough call.

            One other thing: it’s worth noting, and praising, that the Democrats in the legislature were completely unified and did a great job within the limits of their power. None folded, none wavered, and they were unambiguously strong in their opposition and in identifying with labor. In a lot of places the Dems are unreliable or weak. That definitely was not the case here.

          • Fake Irishman says:

            Erik, the view from the outside probably looked terrible, and your statements certainly have some truth to them. We do definitely need to think outside of the box here. Some unions in the state have been taking some actions of moving toward an active “organizing model” from a “service model” (the AFT, parts of the MEA, the SEIU the MNA) over the last several years, but we really have to accelerate that pace now as well as think beyond elections. (Giving PAC dollars is a necessary but not even close to sufficient step)

      • Fake Irishman says:

        There were also institutional barriers: In Wisconsin, the most militant union (the TAA) was able to walk right down State Street and take over the capitol building. In Michigan, the equivelant union is 90 minutes away by car in Ann Arbor. In Wisconsin, procedures allowed Democratic state senators to flee the state to deny the GOP a quorum. Michigan procedures are much more majoritarian. In Wisconsin, both brought protesters days, then weeks to mass for committee hearings.

        • Fake Irishman says:

          And finally, bills in Wisconsin went through the regular committee process. In Michigan, they used a back door procedure to get the bill on the floor without committee hearings. We were ready to stuff committee rooms with hundreds of people and had eyes on the probable committees that RTW could go through, but of course, that wasn’t were they were going.

  13. Eric says:

    Republicans expose themselves by exempting Police and Fire Fighters from these laws. They claim that it is about worker rights, that unions are unfairly forcing people to join and pay dues, that worker liberty is at stake, yada yada yada. They also say that cops and firefighters are heros, the best among us and so on and so on. If being required to join a union is the horrible affront to liberty they say it is and a horrible attack on workers liberty then why do they punish cops and firefighters who they claim to revere so much?

    • Cody says:

      I thought Public Unions were the only ones Republicans opposed!? Isn’t that what they said in Chicago.

      Anyways, I’m sure they didn’t go after the PD and FD because of needing their votes.

      • Dana Houle says:

        There are also constitutional issues with police that would already have exempted them. They can’t strike, but they have binding arbitration, and that’s not statutory, it’s constitutional.

        With fire, that was a political calculation by the GOP.

        • Fake Irishman says:

          Only the State Troopers have Constitutional protection.

        • Murc says:

          They can’t strike

          Legally, this is so.

          Practically, cops have struck in the past, and I actually expect to see them strike in the future. It is only a matter of time before they come for the police and fire unions, and we are gonna see some epic outbreaks of Blue Flu when that happens.

          • Dana Houle says:

            In the last 20-25 years? Not saying you’re wrong, but I can’t think of any cases.

            Even teachers, since the ban on them striking, the only strike was Detroit, which at least at that time was still too big to even ponder firing and replacing them (plus it’s not like Okemos or West Bloomfield or East Grand Rapids; teaching in Detroit is unappealing to a lot of potential scabs).

      • Eric says:

        That is my point, they claim right to work is for workers, but the fact they exempt the ones whose votes they get shows that even they know this is BS and that workers oppose it

  14. gc_wall says:

    Right to work laws are the right to work for less. In states with strong union representation workers make over $5000 more per year even for those who are not members of a union. Right to work laws also mean that 51% less of employees have health care coverage. It seems that some people agree to be subservient to their own superstitions and big business propaganda so they can have the dubious honor of having chosen to work for less. Americans have the freedom not to have union membership, but that includes the freedom to be suckers.

    Occasionally, I’ve talked with workers who are happy not to work in a union shop, but that is because their employers agreed to pay union wages if the employees would agree not to unionize. Admittedly, the above agreements are rare.

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