Critics charge that the poor and people of color will be left out
The dairy state draws attention for some of the nation’s highest rates of racial disparity.
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.
(Editor’s Note: This American Prospect post appeared on the eve of last Tuesday’s Wisconsin recall vote and, as such, only anticipates events that have since occurred. Still, Harold Meyerson offers some astute insights into why that recall effort ultimately failed.)
We don’t know the outcome of Tuesday’s gubernatorial election in Wisconsin, of course, but we do know this: Even if labor somehow manages to oust Republican Governor Scott Walker, the result will be nothing like the resounding repudiation that Ohio voters delivered last year in repealing that state’s anti-collective bargaining law pushed by an equally controversial GOP governor, John Kasich.
Why the difference? Kasich’s bill went beyond Walker’s in banning collective bargaining for cops and fire fighters, which proved a decidedly unpopular position, but that can hardly account for more than a fraction of the difference. Moreover, Wisconsin is generally regarded as a more liberal state than Ohio.
The New Republic’s Richard Yeselson has a perceptive piece on that publication’s website that’s worth reading before our collective amnesia allows us to forget all about Governor Scott Walker’s recent electoral triumph.
“Not With a Bang, But a Whimper: The Long, Slow Death Spiral of America’s Labor Movement” is, as you might surmise, another in a series of post-Wisconsin election eulogies for American unions. Yet it’s much more, becoming a meditation on the place unions once occupied in the American imagination, both in politics and pop culture, and how their mention today barely elicits shrugs – even from many union members.
Yeselon likens unions to the typewriters that many writers of a certain age profess affection for but which none of us will ever return to using. “The problem isn’t that most people hate unions,” he writes. “The problem for unions is that most people don’t care about them,