That Racist and Sexist Michigan Legislature…

Rebecca Smith is a contributor to The Brenner Brief and an expert on union issues.

Rebecca Smith is a contributor to The Brenner Brief and an expert on union issues.

With words like “fair share,” “cheats” and “freeloaders,” Richard Trumka has tried to stir up the masses over Michigan’s new right to work law that goes into effect in April of 2013.

Former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm took a different tact when she made this statement, “This [right-to-work legislation] is not about economics, it’s about politics. Union members, African-Americans, women and Hispanics — is it a coincidence that these are the groups hurt most? No, this is the Republican Party agenda, paid for by wealthy people who can buy our government and shape it for their personal benefit.”

It appears that the union’s strategy is to try to tie this to racial and gender discrimination. Imagine that. Perhaps we should take a count of how many women or minorities hold executive positions in local and international levels within the unions.

“They’ve awakened a sleeping giant,” United Auto Workers President Bob King told The Associated Press on Saturday while attending a strategy meeting. “Not just union members. A lot of regular citizens, non-union households, realize this is a negative thing.”  Ummm, wrong again Bobby!  In a statewide phone survey of likely voters, 54 percent of Michiganders supported right to work legislation.

At this point, beyond bluster and “fighting words,” the unions have suffered a major hit. Their strategy seems to begin with “massive education campaigns” to enlighten voters as to the role unions played in building the middle class and workers’ rights utilizing a fractured Michigan labor movement. Besides the “mandatory” lawsuits that are being filed and which always are filed when labor does not get its way, they are left with waiting until 2015 to try to remove the right to work law. Labor has vowed to pull out all the stops in 2014 to defeat their Republican adversaries and have promised that Republican representatives will have no peace over the next two years.

The AFL-CIO is informing the labor coalition that the law can be overturned. Although a higher signature threshold is required, the AFL-CIO has stated that if enough are gathered a measure to overturn the legislation can show up on the 2014 ballot as an initiative.  So if you live in Michigan, look for a union representative to be knocking on your door soon as they start trying to lay the groundwork for a huge grassroots push.

The new law that applies to both public and private employees does not take effect until 90 days after the legislature adjourns for 2012, making its effective date likely in early April. Michigan’s right to work law does not cover existing contracts. In other words, if a contract does not expire until 2015, for example, that’s when the new law would take effect for the affected employees.

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