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Speer: Right-to-work could tear state apart

March 23, 2012
Bill Speer - Editor/Publisher , The Alpena News

Does anyone win if Right-to-Work questions appear on the November ballot in Michigan?

I don't think so. All one has to do is look across the border to Wisconsin and see the polarizing devastation the issue has done there. That state has regressed to name calling and dirty smear campaigns, the likes of which literally pits neighbor against neighbor. From my perspective, what is taking place there today is ugly and brutal and represents everything that is wrong in politics today.

Just last month I wrote that Indiana's passage of Right-to-Work legislation didn't mean the same should hold true in Michigan. I also pointed out that the last thing Gov. Rick Snyder wanted to deal with at this time is Right-to-Work legislation.

Yet many are restless, and as we in Michigan watch the winds of change in Wisconsin and Indiana some believe those winds are inevitable here as well. Thus, two ballot issues addressing Right-to-Work are being considered by organizers who hope to draw the line in the sand at the Michigan borders that Right-to-Work moves no further east. While both issues need the mandatory petition signatures before they gain ballot status, wording for each was formally approved this week.

The window of opportunity for each to move forward, or be killed, is quickly closing.

If Michigan residents are smart, I contend they do everything in their power to stop the issues immediately. Gov. Snyder has proven his wisdom by accomplishing everything on his agenda in organized fashion, and Right-to-Work isn't on that agenda. Proponents of the issues need to take him at his word on that, which I believe they can, and not push their positions prematurely.

Should that not be the case, and the issue proceeds forward, I expect several things will happen.

First, unions and organized labor will lose forever their ear with the governor. Make no mistake, Snyder will hold organized labor responsible if the issue advances. Coupled with his frustration already with labor over emergency manager legislation, the issue effectively will make null and void their current audience with his administration.

Second, I expect that since the governor will feel abandoned by that group, and feeling intense pressure from those within his own party, he reluctantly will support Right to Work designation for Michigan.

Third, I expect the same ugliness that today mars life in Wisconsin will become the new norm in Michigan as well. Politics will become ugly, neighbor will distrust neighbor and emotions will run high on both sides of the question. This issue is a passionate one for everyone and unlike most issues of life where "shades of gray" exist, there will be no gray here, it is either black or white - and no in-between.

Fourth, if the issue appears on the ballot in November, it effectively will kill all the economic progress that has been accomplished in Michigan over the past 18 months and once again stall the state's recovery from its economic nightmare.

Finally, while Michigan always has been viewed as a "union" state with a rich tradition for the working class, I believe that if Right-to-Work becomes a battleground here, many might be surprised by what the results would be given the current mood of the country. Wisconsin and Indiana also enjoyed rich union histories and traditions, yet both are Right-to-Work states today.

Personally, I like to lead my life with some of the same principles of that great county music philosopher Kenny Rogers: "You have to know when to hold them, know when to fold them."

If opponents to Right-to-Work in Michigan are smart, they would abandon the petition drive immediately. They don't hold a winning hand, no matter how strong some of the suits look.

This isn't a card game to bluff on.

Doing so would be a huge mistake. It would be disastrous.

For all our sakes, I urge them to let this issue rest.



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