Progressive commenters reeling from the “right to work” defeat in Michigan have in turns unmasked and (grudgingly) admired proponents of the new law. The unmasking is fairly easy. Michigan governor Rick Snyder actually unmasked himself. After claiming that he was a moderate who would avoid polarizing fights, he pounced on the opportunity to jam “right to work” through a lame duck legislative session. And the policy itself is not hard to expose. “Right to work” is portrayed by proponents as freeing unwilling workers from paying union dues. But as many critics have pointed out, its wealthy proponents’ main purpose is to hobble labor by allowing some workers not to pay for the representation and protection unions are legally obligated to provide them.
As for the admiration, well, there is much to be learned from the planning and persistence of the rich donors and think tanks for whom spreading “right to work” laws beyond the former Confederacy has long been an aspiration.
On the day North Korea launched a missile this week, the virulently anti-labor website Union Facts splashed a banner on its home page that likened union membership to living in North Korea. This was December 11, when a lame-duck legislature turned Michigan into a right-to-work state — banning unions from collecting fees or dues from workers as a prerequisite for working in unionized shops. (In a shrewdly divisive ploy, Republican bill-sponsors exempted police and firefighter unions from the law.)
In this week’s tightly scripted political theater, Lansing’s two legislative houses raced through their synchronized movements as though the capitol were afire. Later, hitting his marks on cue, Governor Rick Snyder emerged from the wings to sign this coup d’etat into law. (To think, only a few months ago the New York Times was giving Snyder the Profiles in Courage treatment, portraying him as that mythical unicorn of a politician,