Within three hours today, House Republicans approved two bills that give right-to-work for both public and private employees, despite objections from Democratic lawmakers and thousands of protesters at the Capitol.
Unlike the similar situation with Ohio in 2011, Michigan legislators have subverted democracy and inserted an appropriation in that “right to work” cannot be repealed by referendum.
According to one good government group’s analysis of the state constitution, there exists the option of the “statutory initiative,” which would be forced by the collecting of signatures equal to at least eight percent of the votes cast in the last gubernatorial election.
Will unions and Michigan Democrats avail themselves of this option? Eddie Vale, a spokesman for the labor-funded Workers’ Voice, which played a big role in the Ohio and Wisconsin labor wars, tells me it’s being seriously considered. “The Michigan Constitution allows two other ways to let the people decide this issue on the ballot, and whether it’s one of those options or the 2014 Governor’s election itself, Michiganders will be heard loud and clear,” Vale says.
The anti-worker legislators and their well-monied donors may be cheering today’s events. But here are the facts: when the people of a state have the opportunity to vote on these anti-worker measures by referendum, or when they have the opportunity to hold politicians accountable, workers win.
We showed that in Ohio, when Senate Bill 5 was repealed by a 2-to-1 margin. We showed that in 2012 when Wall Street’s favorite presidential candidate Mitt Romney was defeated in a landslide, and Wall Street’s favorite Senator Scott Brown was removed from office by a similar margin. )Mitt Romney, by the way, endorsed a national “right to work” law.)
In Minnesota and Maine last year, Republicans tried to pass their own “right to work” bills in 2011. In the 2012 election, Republicans in those states lost both houses of the legislature. New Hampshire voters tossed out an incredible 115 Republican House members – flipping the chamber – and 6 State Senators in response to that state’s “right to work” push.
American voters, be they Republican, Democrat, or Independent, don’t support the ideological destruction of labor unions that is dogma among right-wing billionaires like Dick DeVos and David and Charles Koch. Above all, voters of all stripes want their leaders to take action on the issues they care about – jobs, health care, and education – instead of greedily consolidating their power and enacting political retribution on their opponents.
And when voters get the opportunity, they speak loudly and clearly against this kind of behavior. We will be doing what we can to ensure that Michigan voters get that chance.
Pro-worker candidates across the country faced enormous headwinds in this election. Thanks to “corporate personhood,” a new class of billionaire mega-donors (along with corporations themselves) was able to inject hundreds of millions of untraceable dollars into state and local elections.
Working America’s brilliant field program, augmented by online, phone, mail, and other efforts, fought back against big money and won.
Here are some highlights:
Colorado:Joe Coors, heir to the Coors fortune, waged a thorough campaign to unseat pro-worker Representative Ed Perlmutter in Colorado’s 7th District. Not only did we beat back Coors’ money, we took two Adams County Commissioner seats in the process.
Massachusetts: Scott Brown was one of the most popular U.S. Senators in the country. He was also Wall Street’s favorite Senator: Brown took more campaign cash from the financial sector than any candidate or member of Congress in the country. From offices in Boston and Worcester, we went door-to-door in 16 of the working class communities that gave Brown his winning margin in 2010. We talked about Brown’s Wall Street ties, his votes against jobs bills, and his willingness to cut Social Security and Medicare in order to preserve tax cuts for the very wealthy. Eight of those cities and towns flipped to Elizabeth Warren, who is already on track to become one of the most economically progressive Senators in the country.
Minnesota: You probably saw on the news that despite Romney’s “expand the map” claims, we kept Minnesota blue for Obama. But on the local level, pro-worker DFL candidates took back the State House and State Senate from the extremists who pushed right-to-work, voter suppression, oh and yeah, they shut down the state government. We said “Enough of that”: our team in the Twin Cities worked on 29 legislative races and won 26 of them. Added bonus? The Minnesota legislature will count three new union members among its ranks: State Representatives-elect. Mary Sawatzky, Patti Fritz, and Will Morgan.
Missouri: Todd Akin didn’t only have extreme views on women’s rights. He also suggested abolishing the minimum wage, called Medicare “unconstitutional,” and voted twice for Paul Ryan’s Medicare-destroying budget. Our St. Louis team helped Senator Claire McCaskill, long-considered a goner by the DC punditry, overtake Akin and win reelection.
New Mexico: We’re particularly proud of our work in the Land of Enchantment. Our Albuquerque team turned the state blue for Obama and sent the young, firmly pro-worker Rep. Martin Heinrich to the U.S. Senate. We also made a crucial difference in four legislative seats: Michael Sanchez won in SD-29 by 1,749 votes, Emily Kane won in HD-15 by 289 votes, and Emily Thomson in HD-24 won by only 237 votes, John Sapien won in SD-9 by 139 votes. Whew!
North Carolina: Working America is still pretty new to the Tarheel State, but since January our Greensboro team has already built a network of over 20,000 members. We brought people into the political process who had never voted before; by talking about crucial issues like jobs and outsourcing, we held Mitt Romney to one of his smallest margins in the country, a mere 2.17 percent.
Ohio: Yowza! In the days leading up to the election, Ohioans couldn’t turn a corner without running into an attack ad paid for by Karl Rove, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, or any of the other anti-worker groups that flooded the airwaves. Still, our teams in Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati overcame the big bucks with thousands of person-to-person conversations across the state. On Tuesday, not only did we turn Ohio blue and give President Obama a second term, we reelected Senator Sherrod Brown despite the $40 million of outside money spent specifically to defeat him. Down the ballot, we ousted four legislative supporters of the union-stripping Senate Bill 5, replacing them with advocates for working families.
Oregon: The Beaver State entered the 2012 Election with an evenly-divided lower chamber in Salem, casting doubt on any pro-worker efforts in the legislature. But not anymore. Team Portland knocked on thousands of doors across Oregon and here’s what we happened: we reelected Secretary of State Kate Brown, we got a strong progressive Labor Commissioner in Brad Avakian, we beat back a measure repealing the estate tax and passed a measure eliminating corporate tax breaks, held the Oregon Senate and broke the tie in the Oregon House, sending 7 of our endorsed candidates to Salem. Want proof we made the difference? We made hundreds of knocks for Brent Barton in HD-40, a politically mixed district in Clackamas County – he won by 304 votes.
Pennsylvania: Trouble for voters started last year, when Republican legislators rammed through one of the most restrictive voter suppression bills in the country. The soap opera of legal challenges continues, but luckily the law was not in place for November 6, 2012. Unfortunately, there was enormous confusion across the state, and Working America organizers in Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania worked tirelessly to educate voters through every twist and turn.
Thankfully, that work bore fruit on Tuesday. Barack Obama took the state, and Senator Bob Casey will return to Washington for a second term. Furthermore, we beat back well-funded legislative challenger and voucher-supporter D. Raja, reelecting pro-public education State Senator Matt Smith.
Virginia: Another sore spot for Karl Rove and his super PAC buddies, who broke the bank in their attempt to defeat Barack Obama here. Virginia was also the site of a marquee U.S. Senate race between former Governors Tim Kaine and George Allen, who were in a near statistical tie for nearly two years. Then our team landed in Fairfax and had thousands of conversations with voters who had previously only been contacted through robo-calls and negative ads. As you know by this point, Obama is now 2 for 2 in the Commonwealth, and Tim Kaine will be taking his pro-worker policies and incredible eyebrows to the U.S. Senate.
Wisconsin: Last but not least, our team of Badgers in Milwaukee capped off an extraordinary two years with historic victories. After a narrow loss in the June recall, our team helped Obama beat Paul Ryan in his home state and send Rep. Tammy Baldwin to the U.S. Senate. Not only is Baldwin our country’s first openly gay U.S. Senator, she will also be one of Senate’s staunchest progressives on the issues of tax fairness, workers’ rights, and the social safety net.
Apart from the elections for President, U.S. Senate, U.S. Congress, and local races, Michigan voters have opportunities on the non-partisan section of the ballot that might trump all others: making two key changes to their state constitution. Voting No on Proposal 1 would the new law that allows the Governor to appoint “emergency managers” that have the power to override local governments by removing locally-elected officials. Voting Yes on Proposal 2 would enshrine the right of workers to bargain collectively in the state constitution, protecting Michigan workers from the anti-worker attacks we’ve seen in this state and across the country.
No on Proposal 1. When the Republican-controlled Michigan legislature passed “Public Act 4” in 2011, one commentator called it “the most radical thing in American politics in this fairly radical year.” Under the guise of “fiscal responsibility” Governor Rick Snyder gained the ability to appoint “emergency managers” (EMs) to take control of local governments.
Under the new law, these EMs can unilaterally seize and sell city assets, outsource public jobs to private and/or out of state companies, lay off thousands of employees, change or terminate contracts, suspend contracts and collective bargaining agreements, and even dissolve or merge whole cities, towns, and school districts.
The abuses of these EMs have been numerous. In Benton Harbor, a majority African-American community in Southwestern Michigan, an EM dissolved the entire town council. Public workers in Pontiac saw their union contract invalidated. EM Roy Roberts closed 15 schools in Detroit and fired thousands of teachers, and those who remained had a bad contract imposed on them.
The EM law isn’t just undemocratic and unfair; it’s also been a failure. Flint, Pontiac, Benton Harbor, and other communities are not better off because of any action by EMs. These communities weren’t in trouble because of mismanagement, they were in trouble because they are manufacturing centers at a time when manufacturing is in a decline; their infrastructure is in need of repair; and their citizens aren’t doing well enough to create a stable tax base.
These problems require attention, but the solution must match the problem. These cities need to be built back up – there is no cause for dissolving local democratic rule. That is, and we use the term carefully, un-American. Vote No on Proposal 1.
Yes on Proposal 2. With the attacks on workers’ rights of 2011 – Senate Bill 5 in Ohio and Governor Walker in Wisconsin, for example – Michigan workers decided to take action. Proposal 2 does not change current rights for union or non-union workers, it simply guarantees the current right for all Michigan workers to Collectively Bargain by adding it to the state Constitution. This proactive measure will stop so-called “right to work” laws and other measures that threaten the right to organize.
In 1989, the average Michigan worker earned over $52,000 a year. In 2010, that number had dropped 11 percent, even though according to the Economic Policy Institute, average productivity has increased 30 percent. That shift can be tied directly into the loss of collective bargaining and the attacks on union rights in that time period.
Although Prop 2 would not make any major changes to existing law, it has been subject to an incredible smear campaign of over $20 million. So let’s get some things straight: Prop 2 would not force anyone to join a union, which is illegal under federal law. Prop 2 will not raise your health care premiums. Prop 2 will not, as one ad claims, allow teachers to get away with inappropriate behavior in the classroom. That’s ridiculous, and no amount of money from the Koch Brothers, Michelle Rhee, or right-wing think tanks will make it true.
But there are real, dangerous consequences to so-called “right to work” laws, which Prop 2 prevents. Eight of the 12 states with the highest unemployment rates are “right to work” states. In a “right to work” state, wages and benefits are lower, and workplace accidents and injuries are more common.
When workers have their rights protected, everyone wins. States with higher levels of collective bargaining have lower poverty levels, high average incomes, higher educational outcomes, and better health insurance coverage for all workers, not just union workers.
With six days to go until the election, Working America Oregon is going full speed ahead. While voters everywhere are abuzz with the presidential election, we’re working hard to get our ballots fully completed to support working families up and down the ballot. Our team is out every night, fanning across the state as far as Eugene to talk to folks about their local elections.
Teaming up with the Oregon AFL-CIO and its affiliates, we’re letting our members know that all of the races count. Democrats hold a 2-vote majority in the State Senate, and the State House is evenly split, 30 to 30. 16 Senators are up for reelection, as are all 60 members of the House. This is where Working America comes in, supporting candidates who will be champions for the middle class in Salem. After seeing the actions of radical state legislatures across the country after the 2010 election, we’re leaving nothing to chance.
We’ve been focusing on important statewide races like Oregon’s Secretary of State, supporting Kate Brown, who has saved Oregon $180 million through effective audits, and Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian, who’s been fighting for middle-class Oregon families, a strong minimum wage, and our state’s most vulnerable.
In Oregon City, Rep. Brent Barton’s 2009 tie-breaking vote to pass the Oregon Healthy Kids Initiative was just one of the reasons our members are supporting him for reelection; we also want to keep him in Salem to support strengthening vocational education and decreasing K-12 classroom sizes. In East Multnomah County, we’ve been getting out the vote for candidates like Chris Gorsek and Shemia Fagan, who will focus on education and preserve local jobs.
Here are some numbers as we enter the final stretch: We’ve knocked on 92,295 doors and talked to 35,798 Oregonians over 5,426 hours in the field. We knock on over 3,000 doors every night, using 33 iPads to log our data.
Our members have handwritten 900 postcards to friends and family about the importance of the coming election. We’ve held 9 postcard writing events, 3 debate watch parties, and driven 5 vans in 7 inches of rain (so far!).
But as we seek to break that 30-30 tie in the House and expand our pro-worker majority in the Senate, here’s the number that matters: We are 1 incredible team, building 1 incredible movement.
Okay, Ohio, we know. We spent most of 2011 urging you to vote No on Issue 2, which repealed the union-busting Senate Bill 5. But in 2012, we urge you to vote Yes on 2, the Ohio Redistricting Amendment.
They key argument for Issue 2 is the current Ohio Congressional Map. Drawn behind closed doors by politicians and special interests, the current map was created with one goal: protecting those who drew the map in political power. That means taking our voice in who should be representing us, and replacing it with politicians’.
Unfortunately, that means the districts defy geography, geometry, common interest, and common sense! Summit County is now divided into five different districts; neighbors across the street from each other in Akron might be voting for two separate representatives, one from Cleveland and another from Youngstown. The 15th District includes Wilmington and Athens, 109 miles apart, and also slivers of Columbus. “Live around Avon, Ohio?” Seth wrote earlier this year, “Depending on the street you’re on, you might share a district with people living in nearby Medina County, or nearly two hours away in Toledo, or all the way in St. Mary’s, practically at the Indiana border.” No wonder the Toledo Blade calls its new home, the 9th District, an “abomination.”
But it’s about more than geography. We want our elected officials to be as accountable as possible for their actions in Washington, and we also want them to work together, regardless of party. So when members of Congress only have to please one side of the aisle, because their district is 70 percent Republican or 80 percent Democratic, we get the same name-calling and obstructionism that has plagued our politics and stymied our economic recovery. Further, fairer and competitive districts mean that officials will need to run on the substance of their own ideas, not political affiliations, a welcome idea.
Issue 2 would create a 12-person “Citizens Commission” to draw legislative and congressional district maps. Any member of the public can submit a plan for consideration. The whole process: meetings, communications records, and draft plans must be available to the public. The new map, which would go into effect in 2014, would reflect the division of towns, cities, and counties, not just the political leanings of their inhabitants. No more “abominations” like the snaking 9th District.
The Citizens Commission would also include equal numbers of Republicans, Democrats, and independents. Even if you are a Democrat who dislikes the current map, there’s no reason that Democrats should be able to re-rig the map in their favor if they happen to be in power in the legislature.
There’s no reason we should have 16 “safe” districts in a politically competitive state like Ohio; and there’s a reason over 430,000 Ohio citizensacross the political spectrum signed their name to put Issue 2 on the ballot. For accountability, transparency, and districts that reflect our communities rather than our politics, we urge all Ohioans to vote Yes on Issue 2. Plan your vote now.
The Presidential election and the high-profile Senate races have been taking the spotlight in these last few weeks. But when it comes to the decisions that affect your community, nothing is more important than the local races and ballot issues closer to the end of your ballot.
Around the country, hundreds of legislative races are decided by only a handful of votes. Sometimes the margin of victory or defeat comes from voters filling out the top of their ballot and stopping, or forgetting to complete a second page. These races aren’t just footnotes, they determine which priorities your legislators take on when they reconvene – and which ones they don’t.
The 2010 election taught us some very valuable lessons.
Wisconsinites watched as supposedly “moderate” Republican state representatives and state senators rubber-stamped Governor Scott Walker’s radical, anti-worker agenda that threw the state into turmoil.
Ohioans shouted “shame!” as Senate Bill 5 was rammed through and put into law, and as voting rights faced obstacles unheard of in previous years.
Michiganders saw unprecedented attacks on women’s rights, teachers, and public schools – not to mention the “emergency financial manager” law that stripped towns and cities of democratic rule.
Pennsylvanians saw their Republican-controlled legislature cut public education by nearly a billion dollars, while passing a costly, unconstitutional “voter ID” law that put 750,000 citizens at risk of disenfranchisement. That voter ID law, by the way, passed by only three votes in the State Senate.
The list goes on and on and reaches every state. The existence of a Democratic or pro-worker U.S. Senators or Congressmen in these states had no effect on the actions of the state legislatures.
How many people stopped voting after the third office? How many people looked at the State Reps and State Senators on their ballots, shrugged, and left them blank?