Just like when the middle and working classes finally began to fight back against the huge and growing wealth disparity and distribution of wealth, Republicans called it “class warfare,” and Republicans in Michigan are calling the decision to fight back against all of the anti-union bills being passed in the GOP-controlled Legislature “divisive.”
On Tuesday coalition of unions launched a petition drive to place a constitutional amendment on the November ballot that would protect collective bargaining and ban right to work for less (RTWFL) laws. The language goes even farther and would appear to nullify the 80 pending and approved anti-union bills, including the anti-Democratic and unconstitutional Emergency Financial Manager (EFM) law that allows an unelected dictator to fire all the elected officials and throw out all union contracts.
For me, the most important part of the amendment is stopping RTWFL, but the most surprising part of all this has been the reaction of Republicans in Lansing. They are actually outraged and surprised that working people have finally had enough after 14 solid months of assault on the working class in Michigan and are fighting back.
According to subscription only Gongwer, Gov. Snyder’s communications director Geralyn Lasher called the move divisive. The next day, Snyder told reporters “A right-to-work bill has not flown through the legislative process.” Apparently, that means let us drop a bill when we want, and stop fighting back against bills slowly picking away at the right to collective bargain.
Where was the GOP outrage last summerwhen a Teabagger group financed by corporate cash, probably including Koch money, called “Michigan Freedom to Work” launched a push to bust unions by pushing RTWFL. Teabagger Republicans Sen. Pat Colbeck, R-Canton, and Rep. Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, plan to introduce the bills. The plan was to introduce the bills last Labor Day, but to date they have not done that.
It appears the anti-union and anti-Democratic forces are being much sneakier about busting unions than RTWFL. On Wednesday, the Legislature approved House Bill 4929 that would bar school districts – and school districts alone – from implementing automatic payroll deductions for teachers to pay their union dues. Just to make sure that no pesky citizen referendum petition drive is launched to overturn their handy work, it added useless $100,000 appropriations to it. Now, it’s no problem for automatic deduction for the United Way or any other purpose, but it is for unions.
If anyone doubts that this is nothing but an attempt to bust the teacher unions, you just need to read the analysis of the bill by the nonpartisan Senate Fiscal Agency that said:
“The bill likely would not result in either net costs or savings to districts.” To drive home that fact, Senate Democrats managed to win an amendment in Committee earlier that day that would have let districts continue to provide automatic payroll deductions for union dues if the union paid for it, but it was stripped out on the floor later in the day. Democrats tried to restore that language with an amendment, but it fell one vote short on a 19-19 vote. Even some Republicans knew this was nothing but a union-busting bill that served no other purpose, and the bill only passed 20-18 with six Republicans crossing over to do the right thing.
But Republicans showed just how far they are willing to go to kill unions later that day with the vote on a bill that would ban university graduate student research assistants (GSRE) from unionizing. It trashed the Michigan Constitution, and we saw just another power grab by the Republicans that illustrates their willingness to change the rules if they don’t like the outcome of a legal vote.
Earlier this month the House and Senate approved Senate Bill 971 that would make sure Republicans got the outcome they wanted by barring GDREs from voting to form a union. The Michigan Employment Relations Commission is expected to decide next Tuesday if they will allow the University of Michigan GSREs to vote – that’s just to vote – to form a union.
The bill won approval in bit the House and Senate, but in order for the bill to win immediate effect (IE) – meaning it takes effect 90 days after being signed into law instead of 90 days after the end of session next December – it needs a two-thirds majority when IE is called for.
House Democrats have enough votes to stop IE, and that’s what they did. To get around it, Senate Republicans on Wednesday took an unrelated House bill that had already been approved in the House with IE – in violation of the Michigan Constitution – substituted the language from SB 971 and approved it.
Republicans knew they had to act fast ahead of the MERC decision. Minutes after the bill was approved in the Senate, it was sent over to the House – in violation of Legislative rules – and the House concurred in the changes.
They got around IE with a dirty parliamentary trick, and they adjourned before Democrats could voice their objections.
Supporters of the Constitutional amendment must gather 322,609 signatures of registered voters to place the measure on the November ballot, and that will just allow people to vote on the measure. The group is shooting for 500,000 to be safe from any challenges.
I can’t wait to get a petition.