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Speer: Timing questionable for right-to-work

December 7, 2012
Bill Speer - Editor/Publisher , The Alpena News

Forget the fiscal cliff talk for a few days, Michigan residents now have a new buzz to talk about with this week's proposed right-to-work legislation.

In what a decade ago would have had Jimmy Hoffa turning over in his grave (wherever that might be), state legislators appear to have not only the votes, but also the apparent momentum, to make Michigan the 24th state in the country to enact right-to-work legislation.

Who would have imagined such a turn of events in the "cradle of organized labor" as Associated Press referred to Michigan as yesterday.

In a discussion with a co-worker about the ramifications of the proposed legislation and its impact across the state in the next few weeks, I said to just think of the recent city recall, then magnify the emotions surrounding the issue by a thousand.

Many will be critical of Gov. Rick Snyder and the legislature for advocating passage of this legislation in a lame duck session. Such criticism I believe is justified as these sessions should not be a place to "railroad" legislation down the throats of legislators, as so often ends up being the case.

Conveniently, many legislators will leave office the end of the year, thus making it easier for them to embrace controversial legislation such as this. Waiting to January, and a new session of the legislature, would probably have made passage all the more difficult.

While I'm not enamored with the timing of the legislation, I do support the right to work concept. My preference would have been to wait until next year, study more the results out of Indiana, and then perhaps pursue it after the emotions of the November ballot proposals had faded away. I worry about jabbing at open wounds left from that election and, honestly, I'm not so sure the electorate were giving right-to-work their support by defeating Proposal 2 and collective bargaining in November. The wording of that proposal was such that just because it was defeated, didn't necessarily mean voters were endorsing right-to-work.

However, make no mistake about this - organized labor has no one but themselves to blame for this legislation, and the timing of it.

Time after time over the past year Gov. Snyder said that right-to-work was not on his radar and urged organized labor leaders to keep Proposal 2 off the ballot. Obviously those urgings carried no weight. With Proposal 2's rather significant defeat, it was like pouring gas on the right-to-work movement in Michigan. Less than 24 hours after the Nov. 6 results, a number of press releases were crossing my desk pushing for this legislation.

I believe Snyder was sincere when he said right-to-work wasn't a priority. I also believe he fully understood the stakes involved with Proposal 2, thus his urging of labor leaders to not push the agenda. When proponents rolled the dice with it, anyway, I believe he also understood his hands would be tied moving forward.

Despite the emotions of the issue, right-to-work will pass the legislature in the days ahead. Michigan will become a right-to-work state. Right-to-work simply prohibits making payment of union fees a condition of employment. No longer will non-union employees be forced to pay union fees.

Democrats and union leaders will say the legislation is anti-worker.

Republicans and chamber of commerce folks will hail it as free choice and that it will result in the creation of more jobs for Michigan in the future.

Somewhere in between you and I will discover the real nuts and bolts of its impact.

Tomorrow the sun will rise over Lake Huron and set over Lake Michigan, of that we all can be assured of.

A new day is dawning. Are you ready?



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