UAW President Bob King made a calculation last year.
Though Governor Rick Snyder said it wasn’t on his agenda repeatedly, King felt conservatives were spoiling for a right to work fight in Michigan. He saw the all Republican Legislature make unions collect their dues from members themselves by cutting out the requirement employers do the job. He bet he could prevent right-to-work in Michigan by enshrining collective bargaining in the state constitution along with making it state law that no right to work legislation could ever or would ever be allowed. It was called Proposal 2. Some called it union overreach.
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Big conservative money fought King hard, including former Gubernatorial Candidate and former Amway CEO Dick DeVos. When Proposal two was resoundingly defeated it was Devos’ turn to take a calculated risk. He saw the ten plus point win for the anti-Proposal 2 camp and thought perhaps the unions have lost their juice in the State of Michigan. After all, he saw only 17 percent of the workforce in Michigan is union and half of those are public sector union workers. This they saw as their opening. As payback for Proposal Two, DeVos and others started really pushing right to work with the Michigan Legislature.
The pressure grew to the point where Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville was in jeopardy of losing his leadership position. That forced him and the governor to get on board. Up right to work popped in short order, rammed down Democrat’s collective throats, no committee hearings, no meaningful amendments and bam it passed the Senate last week, the house today in lame duck session no less, and the Governor will sign it into law either tomorrow or Thursday.
The question now becomes whose calculation was right? King saw trouble and tried to head it off. DeVos and fellow conservatives saw daylight and ran toward it. But was that daylight or an oncoming train? Will the outraged union membership be energized enough to defeat Republicans who supported right to work? Will they attempt to recall anyone? Will they go to court and try and derail the legislation? You bet! Will the unions find ways around right to work? Any way they can! Will their efforts be enough to derail right to work? That’s the question we can’t answer tonight.
The Republicans know they’ve opened up a can of worms and they know the response will last long after the capitol lawn is cleared of protestors and their picket signs. Right to work is historic, its impact far reaching, its future though, in question.
Bare knuckle politics brought us this battle and they will be with us through right-to-work for years to come.