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January 2013

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Michigan's Big Step Backward

Passage of right-to-work legislation in Michigan marks a huge step backward for working families — both in the Midwest and across the United States.

At a time when lawmakers' top priority should be job creation and rebuilding the middle class, Gov. Rick Snyder and the majority of the lame duck state legislature voted to silence the voices of Michigan's middle class, slash their wages and divide union and nonunion workers against each other.

Contrary to the claims of right-to-work boosters, there is no evidence that weakening unions will make Michigan more competitive or create jobs. What it will do is "Walmartize" the economy, making the state a haven for low-wage jobs that do little to lift the average worker out of poverty.

Right-to-work laws drive down wages for all workers by an average of $1,500 a year, whether they are in a union or not. And 28 percent more workers go without health insurance in right-to-work states than in non-right-to-work ones.

Snyder's radical course will also paralyze the legislative process, poisoning the political atmosphere in Lansing for years and threatening Michigan's tentative economic recovery. As the Detroit Free Press — which endorsed Snyder — put it, right-to-work legislation will leave other initiatives in the dust, including bills targeting jobs, infrastructure spending and education.

Since his election in 2010, Snyder repeatedly announced that he considered right-to-work divisive and not on his agenda. And many Democratic, independent, and moderate Republican voters believed him, seeing Snyder as a different kind of Republican — a pragmatist who would focus on bipartisan, common-sense solutions to rebuild the economy, as opposed to Tea Party backed Govs. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Ohio's John Kasich, and Rick Scott of Florida, who embroiled their respective states in divisive battles over anti-worker legislation.

But under pressure from big money right-wing ideologues like the Koch brothers and anti-union lobbyists like Dick DeVos, Snyder and GOP legislators reversed course, cramming through right-to-work legislation before many lawmakers had the chance to even read the bill — all while expelling pro-worker protestors from the state capitol.

Michigan voters made clear last November that they wanted their elected officials to focus on building the middle class from the bottom up, working together to find solutions to getting the economy back on track.

Snyder chose to ignore the voters' will. He joins the ranks of Walker, Scott and Kasich in pursuing policies that increase the power of the very wealthy, silence the voices of working families and promote an economic race to the bottom — a race where the only winners will be Wall Street and outsourcing CEOs.

The IBEW stands together with Michiganders in denouncing Snyder's deceptive tactics and will work to hold all elected officials accountable in our efforts to build a stronger Michigan and country — one that benefits all families and gives every worker a shot at a decent future for themselves and their children.


Also: Chilia: No Time to be Silent Read Chilia's Column

Edwin D. Hill

Edwin D. Hill
International President