Michigan Has Gone Crazy: Right-To-Work and More
After a fury of last-minute, lame-duck legislating, Michigan representatives have passed a number of jaw-dropping bills.
One allows concealed weapons in locations like day-care centers, churches, and hospitals.
Two bills limiting access to abortion, one imposing new restrictions on clinics and another barring insurance from covering abortion, would make Michigan "one of the most regressive states in the nation on women's health," writes Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards.
And to top it all off, new restrictions on recall elections will make it tougher for voters to express their frustrations over such hastily passed laws at the ballot box.
But it's the anti-union right-to-work legislation that Gov. Rick Snyder (R-Mich.) signed into law on Tuesday night which is attracting the most attention, and protest.
Right-to-work laws, sometimes derided by critics as "right to work for less" laws, make union member dues voluntary, cutting into union operating budgets. For unions, shallow coffers translate to a weakened capacity to effectively bargain.
Thousands of protesters swarmed the capitol building to express outrage while Gov. Snyder was signing the bill. Chanting as they went, they carried props that included a large inflatable "Snyder rat" and a gravestone reading "Here lies democracy." The capitol was closed to the public until an injunction forced it open to allow protesters their full First Amendment rights.
And in one widely-reported conflict, a union member punched Fox News contributor Steven Crowder in the face. However, a closer inspection of the tape revealed that the footage was heavily edited to omit the incident that provoked the man. In fact, in the days following the incident, Crowder has seemed more interested in publicity than pressing charges.
One thing is clear: the right-to-work law has sparked criticism from leaders around the country and is likely to serve as a political lightning rod well into next year.
United Auto Workers president Bob King told MSNBC that he was "blindsided" by Snyder, who was previously opposed to right-to-work, signing the bill into law.
"What looked like a spontaneous shift in Michigan labor policy had been planned for months—and the success of the right-to-work push could foretell future efforts nationwide," MSNBC's Ned Resnikoff reported.
Turns out, the Koch-backed Makcinac Center for Public Policy has exerted a lot of anti-union policy influence recently, and Michigan's right-to-work legislation is almost identical to model legislation drafted by the voter-ID-pushing American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).
Why would ALEC care about labor laws in Michigan? John Nichols weighs in at The Nation: "The end result of the assault on labor rights is the same as a direct assault on voting rights: a diminished democracy." Robust union participation and full enfranchisement are both a threat to corporate control of politics.
Emily Crockett is a reporter with Campus Progress. Follow her on Twitter @emilycrockett.