December 11, 2012

Today, Governor Rick Snyder is expected to sign “right to work” legislation in Michigan. Obviously, this will constitute a hard blow to organized labor, for a host of reasons, symbolic and practical alike.

But NBC’s Michael O’Brien reports that labor operatives believe they may have it on a new procedural way to force a vote on the legislation. If the major unions avail themselves of this option — and if it pans out legally — this means the Dem threats to turn this into an extended all-out war could come to pass.

Republicans have tried to protect the law from going before the voters by attaching an appropriation to it; spending bills can’t be overturned by legislative referendum in Michigan. But union operatives think there is another mechanism by which the law can be challenged. According to one good government group’s analysis of the state constitution, there exists the option of the “statutory initiative,” which would be forced by the collecting of signatures equal to at least eight percent of the votes cast in the last gubernatorial election.

Will unions and Michigan Democrats avail themselves of this option? Eddie Vale, a spokesman for the labor-funded Workers’ Voice, which played a big role in the Ohio and Wisconsin labor wars, tells me it’s being seriously considered. “The Michigan Constitution allows two other ways to let the people decide this issue on the ballot, and whether it’s one of those options or the 2014 Governor’s election itself, Michiganders will be heard loud and clear,” Vale says. (There may also be another referendum option as well.)

The idea here is this: If such a tactic can force a vote on the “right to work” law, Governor Snyder will be heading into reelection in 2014 up against a heavily energized union base, a ton of money pumped into the state by national unions — even as there’s a major pro-collective bargaining initiative on the ballot. Of course, if this happens, major money from the right will flow into the state, too.

Now, to be clear, the major unions may decide against this route — or it may not work. But if they do opt for it, and if it does work, you could see another extended showdown similar to the ones in Wisconsin and Ohio — still another nationally funded clash over the broader fate of organized labor. Stay tuned.

* Why House Republicans continue to oppose tax rates: Jonathan Weisman has an interesting look at how gerrymandering has left many House Republicans in such safe districts that they are insulated from popular opinion, which tilts decisively for tax hikes on the rich. Perhaps remaining comfortably protected from the will of the majority of Americans makes evolving as a party harder.

Update: I wrongly attributed a quote in this article to John Boehner, when in fact it was said by a Democrat. So I’ve removed it. Obviously, the basic larger point stands.

* Tom Cole keeps bucking GOP leadership: Also in the above link, a telling quote from GOP Rep. Tom Cole:

“I don’t think voting to cut spending, restrain and reform entitlements and make the Bush tax cuts permanent for 98 percent of the American people is voting against the will of anyone’s constituents, including my own.”

 You don’t say! I’d go further and note that extending just the middle class tax cuts would constitute voting in accord with the will of the people.

* Wealthy move to minimize impact of “fiscal cliff”: The Post has a nice piece detailing how the wealthy have more options than middle or lower-income people of minimizing the brunt of going over the fiscal cliff, since many in the latter category earn their income from wages and can’t move money around:

“You’re not going to refuse your paycheck because the taxes are higher,” said Roberton Williams, senior fellow at the nonpartisan Tax Policy Institute. “The people that can make adjustments, who can change the way their world works, are the wealthy.”

Just to reiterate, Republicans are refusing to extend tax cuts for 98 percent of taxpayers, all to keep taxes low on income over $250,000 earned by the richest two percent.

* Setting the record straight on “right to work”: Dem Rep. Sander Levin of suburban Detroit has a nice Op ed piece deflating the nonsense about how “right to work” is necessary to combat “forced unionization”:

The governor has said that under current law Michigan workers “have to join a union and pay dues” and that if they choose not to they “can lose their jobs.” In fact, for many decades federal and state laws have made it clear that no one is required to join a union or to pay dues. And no one can lose his or her job for refusing to do so. Workers pay dues if they join the union, but if they choose not to, the most that can be required of them — if it is negotiated into the contract by labor and management — is that they pay an “agency fee” for their share of administering the contract.

As noted below, Levin actually negotiated major collective bargaining laws in the 1960s with none other than former Republican Michigan Governor George Romney — again underscoring how far to the right the GOP has drifted on labor issues.

* Snyder uses state resources to promote “right to work”? A good scoop from the Detroit News: The Snyder administration sent out a memo to thousands of state employees, some of whom are unionized, extolling the virtues of the “right to work” initiatives — leading Dems to charge he is using state equipment to promote a political message. This will only feed their sense that we’re seeing another Walker-style abuse of power designed to destroy unions, this time in the birthplace of the United Auto Workers.

* Snyder “drinking the Koch’s cool-aid”? A blistering editorial in the Detroit Free Press suggests that the right wing Koch-funded American Legislative Exchange Council is behind the “right to work” push, a major proponent of such laws, and demanding that Snyder come clean about how this legislation got on the agenda. Key tidbit:

 Michigan’s proposed right-to-work bills mirror the ALEC language practically word-for-word.

* And on gay marriage, it’s not a matter of “if,” but “when”: I don’t agree with all of it, but Charles Lane’s column recapping the astonishing success gay rights advocates have had in reversing public opinion on marriage equality, making it all but inevitable, is worth a read.

As Lane notes, even some supporters worry that a sweeping SCOTUS ruling enshrining the constitutional right to gay marriage would provoke a backlash.  But there are reasons to doubt that any backlash will be as bad as the reactions to previous SCOTUS breakthroughs, for the reasons outlined here.

 What else?

 

 

 

 

 

Greg Sargent writes The Plum Line blog, a reported opinion blog with a liberal slant -- what you might call “opinionated reporting” from the left.