Teachers' Union Reps Call Right-to-Work Revenge for Prop 2, Attack on Organized Labor
Chippewa Valley and L'Anse Creuse's union presidents plan to join protestors at the state Capitol Tuesday to voice opposition to proposed right-to-work legislation.
Gov. Rick Snyder has said right to work is about "giving workers the freedom to choose,” but union presidents for Chippewa Valley and L’Anse Creuse schools view it more as a politically motivated attack on organized labor.
Like other union supporters quoted in recent days, Chippewa Valley Education Association President Maryanne Levine draws a parallel between Lansing’s actions and those advocated by one of history’s most infamous figures.
“We must close union offices, confiscate their money and put their leaders in prison. We must reduce workers’ salaries and take away their right to strike," Levine quoted. "Those were the words of Adolf Hitler, May 2, 1933."
“These are strong words, but that is exactly what they are doing and the path they seem to be taking (in Lansing),” she added.
L’Anse Creuse Education Association President Mara Wirtz took a similar view.
“It’s been a tough year for public workers to be sure,” Wirtz said. “My first reaction (to hearing Snyder’s call for right to work) was that this is political retribution for Proposal 2. I also believe it involves (Richard) DeVos and the Koch brothers and political financing for Snyder to run for governor in 2014.”
Both Levine and Wirtz plan to join protesters today at the state Capitol.
While thousands visited Lansing on Thursday to protest Snyder’s call for right-to-work legislation, even larger protests are expected today.
With sufficient Republican support in the House and Senate, this legislation could reach the governor’s desk by later today. Should he sign it, as he has promised to do, Michigan will become the nation’s 24th right-to-work state.
Macomb Township legislators divided
However, if the legislation is passed, it will likely do so with the support of only one Macomb Township representative.
A longtime proponent of right-to-work, Republican Sen. Jack Brandenburg (District 11) voted in favor of both Senate Bill 116 and House Bill 4003 Dec. 6, whereas his Republican colleagues in the House, Rep. Ken Goike (District 33) and Rep. Anthony Forlini (District 24), cast “no” votes on House Bill 4054.
“It’s a divisive issue,” Forlini said. “I’m not saying right to work doesn’t have merit, but I feel it would have been better as a ballot initiative. It shouldn’t be a Republican or Democratic issue just because one party or the other is in leadership. There are so many things to do in Lansing. It’s unfortunate this is pushing others aside.”
For Goike, it was a matter or listening to his constituents and recalling his own experience with unions in the private sector.
“I wasn’t favorable to the idea that some employees will pay for collective bargaining rights while others won’t yet would still get the same benefit,” Goike said. “(District 33) is a predominantly blue collar district. They are in the working trades, but have conservative values like I do. I was sent to Lansing to represent them. I’ve heard from my constituents and that’s the reason I voted the way I did.”
Both Forlini and Goike said they would cast another “no” vote today.
“Right to work might have its merits, but we have to be careful,” Forlini said. “This is not one of those things you can vote in one day and walk away from.”
The proposed legislation prohibits unions from collecting fees from non-union workers, a caveat opponents say would weaken organized labor’s ability to bargain for good wages while supporters argue it would boost jobs.
"The GOP says they don’t like entitlements, but they are willing to give entitlements to free loaders who choose not to pay union dues," Levine said.
The legislation contains an exception for police and firefighters.
Are you participating in the demonstrations in Lansing? Leave a comment, upload a photo or e-mail Macomb Township Patch editor Jenny Whalen! Patch will be live-blogging from Lansing as the situation develops.
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