Michigan passes right-to-work laws

Despite loud, occasionally violent protests from union forces on Thursday, the Michigan legislature passed – or, as the Chicago Tribune would have it, “slammed” – right-to-work legislation in the state House and Senate:

Republicans slammed right-to-work legislation through the Michigan House and Senate Thursday, drawing raucous protests from throngs of stunned union supporters, whose outnumbered Democratic allies were powerless to stop it.

Just hours after they were introduced, both chambers approved measures prohibiting private unions from requiring that nonunion employees pay fees. The Senate quickly followed by voting to impose the same requirement on most public unions.

Although rumors had circulated for weeks that right-to-work measures might surface during the session’s waning days, the speed with which the GOP-dominated Legislature acted Thursday caught many onlookers by surprise. Details of the bills weren’t made publicly available until they were read aloud on both floors as debate began.

Not until the fourth paragraph, after once again describing those high-spirited protesters as “raucous,” does the Trib find it necessary to mention that the police had to pepper-spray and arrest some of them, after they tried to crash into the state Senate.  There will be time for more “raucous” hijinks over the weekend, as the rules require a five-day delay before Republican Governor Rick Snyder – who originally said he didn’t have right-to-work on his “agenda,” but now says he supports the new laws – can sign the legislation.

It has been remarked by several observers that one reason for the swift pace of the legislation was the need to minimize union violence.  “We will not have another Wisconsin in Michigan,” said Inspector Gene Adamczyk of the state police, referring to the chaos unleashed by Big Labor and its political allies against Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s reforms.  “Republicans in Lansing were probably trying to avoid a siege that would do significant damage to the capital,” said F. Vincent Vernuccio of the Mackinac Center.

It’s funny how we’re supposed to decry “gridlock” and hate “intransigent” political minorities who prevent government from “getting things done”… right up until something the Left doesn’t like is on the table.  Inflexible politicans are also supposed to be the worst thing in the world, but Governor Snyder isn’t getting much credit for his flexibility in adapting to the new political environment that made right-to-work laws feasible.  His decision-making process is not difficult to understand:

After repeatedly insisting during his first two years in office that right-to-work was not on his agenda, Snyder reversed course Thursday, a month after voters defeated a ballot initiative that would have barred such measures under the state constitution.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Snyder said he had kept the issue at arm’s length while pursuing other programs to bolster the state economy. But he said circumstances had pushed the matter to the forefront.

“It is a divisive issue,” he acknowledged. “But it was already being divisive over the past few weeks, so let’s get this resolved. Let’s reach a conclusion that’s in the best interests of all.”

Also influencing his decision, he said, were reports that some 90 companies had decided to locate in Indiana since that state adopted right-to-work legislation. “That’s thousands of jobs, and we want to have that kind of success in Michigan,” he said.

(Emphases mine.)  As CNN notes, only 17.5 percent of the state’s workforce is unionized.  It shouldn’t be terribly surprising that legislation benefiting the other 82.5 percent might find substantial political support, particularly since neighboring Indiana has adopted right-to-work laws, and there were serious concerns about jobs bleeding from Michigan across the border.

Vernuccio of the Mackinac Center got into an interesting little spat with an AFL-CIO executive over the pros and cons of right-to-work legislation, as related by CNN:

Michigan State AFL-CIO President Karla Swift, in a statement posted on the United Auto Workers’ website, said workers in right-to-work states make an average of $1,500 less per year and are less likely to have pensions or health care benefits.

“The growth rate for right-to-work states before they adopted such policies is actually higher than the growth rate for these states after they adopted these laws,” she said.

Vernuccio said the comparison was not a fair one. “They’re comparing apples and oranges,” he said. “When you factor in cost of living, workers are actually paid more in right-to-work states.”

Pensions?  You mean those unsustainable fiscal time bombs that are blasting private sector companies into ruin, and will soon prompt the collapse of entire state governments?  And what the heck is she talking about with “health care benefits?”  We have ObamaCare now.  Everyone is covered.  Everyone has awesome health care benefits.  Right?  Wasn’t that the point of nationalizing huge sectors of the economy, and adding hundreds of billions more to the national debt, as ObamaCare’s funding assumptions proved to be pure fantasies?

Dismayed Big Labor allies have reacted to the Michigan laws with fury, including filmmaker and noted corporate welfare queen Michael Moore, who amusingly called for a “revolt,” displayed a stunning lack of comprehension about the workings of American government by calling the new laws “illegal,” and vowed that he would disobey the law: “If you write, direct, edit, shoot, or do sound on me for my next movie, you will not work for me unless you belong to the union.”

Unlike, say, the bullied and mistreated employees who worked on his TV show.  Or, um, his last movie.  Which was a tirade against the same sort of corporate subsidies Moore gleefully collected from the state of Michigan to make it.

As a crazy right-wing capitalist type, I’m generally in favor of people hiring whoever they think is best for any given job.  But how else is Moore supposed to “disobey” Michigan’s new laws?  Forcibly extract union dues from non-union employees at gunpoint?  Oh well, I’m sure he’ll figure something out.  Meanwhile, the rest of us can cherish these little liberal bursts of fury at lame-duck legislative sessions, as we watch the last few days of the current Congress play out in Washington.