As RTW Spreads Across the Nation, Governors Bail

images[1]Missouri, Ohio and Oregon may soon join 24 other states with right-to-work laws. Conservative groups, with the ever-present assistance of ALEC, are planning for initiated laws on the 2014 ballot in these states.

Voters will decide the issue then, or will it be dollars?

We can’t even begin to imagine the enormous sums of money that will be poured into these ballot proposals — and, as campaign finance law currently stands, the public will learn of only a fraction of that. The 2014 election is destined to become known as the big year of dark money.

The ballot approach is a new weapon in the RTW arsenal, credited largely to the protests sparked in Michigan over the state’s surprise-attack in 2012 with a legislative ambush to impose the law — including lawsuits over the lock-out of protestors at the capitol building, and the subsequent childish punitive threats made by GOP lawmakers against universities and counties due to their pre-emptive renegotiation of long-term contracts designed to forestall the corrosive effects of the law. The Michigan legislature, and the governor, looked like world-class A-holes about this time last year….and yet…

The Great Lakes State is still considered the test case for RTW among conservative groups.

Governors in other states are now understandably skittish about signing these unpopular laws without voter approval, especially those up for re-election. The whole nation will be watching Snyder’s campaign, and whether he can reclaim all those glowing newspaper endorsements this time around. At least the Free Press seems to have shaken-off the sucker punch taken in 2010 from the corporate tycoon’s campaign. Let’s hope they get it right in ’14.

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy is thoroughly pumped by the idea of acting as the policy pace-car for other states on RTW. Vincent Vernuccio, their director for labor policy, said this to the Associated Press:

What we’re seeing is a lot of states are looking and saying ‘Hey if Michigan can do it, why can’t we?”

Vernuccio has been crisscrossing the nation with his labor-bashing message urging conservative groups in Missouri, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Washington to swallow the RTW pill. In fact, based on Michigan’s “success” with RTW, Wisconsin’s governor, Scott Walker, is toying with a go-round of the abusive law for his state’s already down-trodden workers — just more of his arrogant kick’em-in-the-groin style of diplomacy.

In early October of this year, Democracy Tree reported a new effort to expand RTW to non-union organizations in Michigan that require dues. In September, a GOP crowd at the 30th Biennial Republican Leadership Conference was all abuzz about their latest scheme to prohibit the automatic collection of dues in the Michigan Bar Association.

Membership to the bar association is mandatory, and dues are $300 a year. Yet, Greg McNeilly, president of the Michigan Freedom Fund, claims to be deeply concerned about the plight of lawyers in the state. MLive reports he said:

“They shouldn’t be second-class citizens. We need to give them the freedom to practice. Other states do that. They don’t have compulsory, mandatory bars. So why should Michigan? We need to be the freest, best place for anybody to practice any profession.”

Bruce Courtade, former president of the Michigan Bar, replied with this:

“My response was, we’re not a union. We’re not an employer. There are so many reasons for us to remain a compulsory, mandatory bar, including the fact that there is a discipline system set up that the profession itself is regulating. So it would require setting up a new system to do that.

There would be so many initiatives that benefit the justice system that would be compromised if we went to a voluntary bar. I think it would be really unwise.”

The 43,600 members of State Bar of Michigan doesn’t take kindly to attacks on the integrity of their organization or against their profession as a whole — especially when it comes to dark money spent in judicial campaigns.

RTW has been sold as a job-creating tool, yet where in effect, it has proven to be a wage-lowering device. While the Congressional Research Service found that RTW states have slightly stronger employment numbers — they also had lower than average wages. The CRS report did not credit RTW for any real job growth.

Yet, the news is not all bad…

More telling are employee attitudes toward their union affiliations. Michigan teachers should be the true bellwether for the rest of the nation — in spite of RTW, only 1 percent of the 150,000 Michigan Education Association members opted to not pay their dues.

Michigan teachers will lead our nation out of the darkness.

We are turning the corner on the days of ALEC and the Tea Party. They’ve lost the people, and now the governors.

Amy Kerr Hardin

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