The bills in the House and Senate are ALEC model bills, inspired by none other than Wisconsin union-buster Gov. Scott Walker. Quick story: In early 2011, Walker pushed and passed a preemption law in Wisconsin, completely invalidating the will of Milwaukee voters who had just passed a sick days ordinance.
All workers deserve the opportunity to earn paid sick days, so that not another person has to make their choice between going to work sick and not making rent, or not being able to eat, or not being able to care for their child.
But even the threat of workers in a few cities and towns having this basic right has the restaurant lobby and ALEC running scared, using their politician pawns to introduce ridiculously undemocratic preemption bills that won’t create a single job. Since when did these “small-government” obsessives get into the business of telling cities and towns how to conduct their business?
When someone tries to raise the minimum wage, improve our health care system, or generally try to fix anything, a chorus of conservative anti-worker bigwigs cries foul about big government intruding in their lives.
But when a state passes a law to preempt cities and towns from making their own decisions about allowing workers to earn sick days, those same voices are silent.
Legislation recently approved by committees in the Republican-controlled House and Senate would prohibit counties, townships and cities from adopting policies that requires employers to provide paid or unpaid leave not required under federal or state law.
The bill is HB 4249 in the House, sponsored by Rep. Earl Poleski (R-Jackson), and SB 173 in the Senate, sponsored by Sen. Mark Jansen (R-Grand Rapids). Both bills have been passed by their respective committees.
If you look closely at the bills, you’ll notice they are startlingly similar to bills introduced in Florida, Arizona, Indiana, Michigan, Oklahoma, and Washington.
Meeting attendees were given complete copies of Wisconsin’s 2011 Senate Bill 23 (now Wisconsin Act 16) as a model for state override. ALEC’s Labor and Business Regulation Subcommittee at the time was co-chaired by YUM! Brands, Inc., which owns Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell.
As one Republican operative put it, these bills “deliver the kills shot” to efforts to allow workers to earn sick days. In addition to Wisconsin, such laws are already on the books in Louisiana and Mississippi.
As hard as Michigan’s winters can hit, so has our latest lame duck session.
Before last December, there were 23 states with fair bargaining bans, also known as “right to work” states. Sadly, the cradle of labor holds the title as number 24. On December 11th, the Michigan legislature rammed through numerous controversial bills, exploiting the advantage of a lame duck session.
Through a shameful display of cowardice, they passed so-called “right to work” legislation in record time with no debate in both the State House and Senate, no committee hearings and with a $1 million appropriation attached to it, effectively making it impossible to bring this issue to the voters in an election. “Why can’t you take this to the voters? Because you know what will happen. You’re doing this in the lame duck because you know in the next session you won’t have the votes!” Rep. Brandon Dillon (D-Grand Rapids).
The Republicans chose to ignore their constituents, and rolled back decades of workers’ rights that many made deep sacrifices to achieve.
Now that the lame duck session is over, a new legislative session has begun. Along with it come concerns that banning fair bargaining in Michigan isn’t far enough for Republican legislators. The threat of privatization hangs over the heads of teachers and staff in our public schools. Possible efforts to roll back MIOSHA, the state agency overseeing worker safety, could make workplaces across Michigan even more unsafe.
But currently what concerns Working America’s members in Michigan the most is the repeal of Prevailing Wages. In government contracting, a prevailing wage is defined as the hourly wage, usual benefits and overtime, paid to the majority of workers, laborers, and mechanics within a particular area. These standards are crucial and necessary to provide a livable and fair wage to skilled workers that build our roads, highways, schools and other government funded projects.
When you eliminate the prevailing wage standard, it encourages contractors to take short cuts. It compromises work quality, increases injury rates and lost work time, and results in higher maintenance costs.
This will also bring more outsourcing into Michigan. Predatory contractors will gain the incentive to underbid established businesses by using unskilled or low-skilled workers that come from other parts of the country who are willing to work for less than the local labor market is paying.
Our organizers have been reaching out to members, and overwhelmingly they agree that this is the wrong direction to go.
“The state of Michigan’s economy is very important and fair wages must be paramount for the workers. As a stay at home mom it is important that the wages of my husband be protected. You can protect prevailing wage laws. Please keep the wages with the workers” says member Trisha Zessler of Monroe.
Rich CEO’s and their lobbyists would like to make you think that repealing prevailing wage would save taxpayers money. But in reality, it will cost us more in the long run. Pension plans that were previously privately covered will force tax payers to pick up the tab. Roads that were constructed and repaired by qualified and highly skilled workers will be built with lower standards, making it more likely to need repairs sooner and be replaced frequently. And you can count on dramatically slashed wages for our workers.
This is the last thing that we need here in Michigan. This isn’t carrying the message of more jobs. Instead, it is clearly sending a message that we deserve to be paid less and put more of our hard earned tax dollars in the pockets of rich CEO’s.
Right before the November election, every polling outfit showed the same thing: Even as Michigan voters moved to reelect Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow and Democratic President Barack Obama, opinion of Republican Governor Rick Snyder, remained fairly high.
Despite controversial policies like the emergency manager law, Public Policy Polling found that 47 percent of Michiganders approved of Snyder’s performance while only 37 percent disapproved.
Today, PPP found that only 38 percent of Michigan voters approved of Snyder while 58 percent disapprove – that’s a net drop of 28 percent. And if the 2014 election was held today, Snyder would lose badly to any of his potential Democratic opponents.
There’s a fair amount of sniping every time a new poll comes out, but here’s what’s important: Snyder is in trouble with the voters for policies he and allies claim are popular.
But that’s not the case: Michiganders want action to create jobs, improve their schools, and have more money in their pocket at the end of the day. Snyder has used this lame duck session to do the exact opposite.
From November 7 to December 18, Gov. Snyder shed his image of a centrist, business-oriented decision-maker to reveal the corporate-backed, anti-worker ideologue underneath. Here is how that revelation happened:
Gov. Snyder did a 180 on workers’ rights and signed a so-called “right to work” (for less) bill into law, banning free bargaining in Michigan. He had previously testified to Congress in February that the issue was too divisive.
Snyder also allowed the legislature to inoculate themselves against the recall process, which is one of the only actions voters can take to express disapproval (especially when legislators don’t reveal their true agenda before the election).
About a month after a referendum repealed Snyder’s undemocratic emergency manager policy, which allows state takeover of local governments, Snyder signed a new one into law.
Also in the poll, PPP found that 51 percent oppose the free bargaining ban (including 50 percent of independents), and that 40 would vote to repeal it by referendum if given the chance.
And before you go thinking that this is a skewed, biased, or otherwise unreliable poll, remember this: Public Policy Polling was the most accurate pollster of the 2012 cycle, according to study by Fordham University.
Last week, we saw an unprecedented attack on our working rights by Governor Snyder and Republican lawmakers in Lansing.
The Michigan State House and State Senate have already passed “right to work” legislation, and it could get to Governor Snyder’s desk as soon as tomorrow.
But we can’t go quietly.
Tomorrow, Tuesday, December 11, thousands of working people from across the Great Lakes State will gather at the Capitol in Lansing to tell lawmakers that unions built Michigan’s middle class, and all workers benefit from unions’ gains.
Governor Snyder has made it clear that he’ll sign this legislation when it reaches his desk. And that may be true, but we need to let him know that Michiganders elected him to create jobs and protect the middle class, not to attack us.
This is really it. We need to get as many people to Lansing tomorrow as possible, and we’re counting on you to make it.
1.) The Michigan House and Senate yesterday passed so-called “right to work” bills.“Right to work” laws effectively defund the ability of workers to have a voice at their workplace. In 23 other states, these laws have lowered wages, weakened benefits, raised the poverty rate, and led to increased workplace injuries and deaths. The House passed one such bill and the Senate passed two.
2.) Republican leaders in Michigan were not honest about their intent. The morning began with Governor Rick Snyder reversing his earlier position on the “right to work.” He had previously said that the bill was “not on his agenda,” and that it was a divisive issue – but then yesterday, he suddenly urged the House and Senate to pass the bill and said he would sign it when it reached his desk. Similarly, Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville previously opposed “right to work,” but expressed support for it on Thursday morning.
3.) There were no committee hearings concerning the bills. With an issue this controversial, this is a highly unusual move. Republicans avoided the need for committee hearings by changing the intent of a previously passed bill.
4.) There was no floor debate concerning the bill. Another highly unusual move, considering the high profile “right to work” bill. But Republicans took advantage of their majority by ending debate on the bill before it started.
6.) The public was not allowed inside the Capitol Building to observe the proceedings. Republican House Speaker Jase Bolger locked down the Capitol, locking approximately 3,000 Michiganders outside. It took a court order requested by Democrats to get the building opened again, but even then the Republican-controlled House did not pause their proceedings.
8.) The “right to work” bill is rigged so that it can’t be repealed. Republicans inserted a $1 million appropriation on the bill, which under Michigan law precludes it from being overturned by a citizen referendum. As blogger Chris Savage wrote, “not only was there no opportunity for public input before the bills were voted on, there will be none afterwards, as well.”
2.) If you are in Michigan,you can call your State Senator now using our “click-to-call” system. Even if you don’t know who your Senator is, you can enter your address and get connected to the right person
Three weeks ago, Mitt Romney lost the state of Michigan by almost 10 percentage points. This week, Michigan Republicans are trying to pass one of his economic policies while no one is looking.
Republicans in the Michigan legislature are seeking to take advantage of their pre-election majorities to sneak through a “right to work” (RTW) bill, which would ban union security clauses and harm the ability of workers to bargain with their employers. In states with RTW laws on the books, wages are lower, benefits are fewer, and workplace injuries and fatalities are more common. (Learn more.)
The possibility of so-called Right-to-Work legislation (also called “Right to Work for Less” by opponents) is sucking almost all the oxygen out of the capitol. A bunch of Republican heavyweights, mostly business types from the west side of the state, are fiercely lobbying legislators to take quick advantage of big GOP majorities in both the House and Senate and pass it once and for all.
One man has the power to stop all of this. No, not Governor Rick Snyder, who said RTW is “not on his agenda” but hasn’t said he wouldn’t sign a bill if it reached his desk. Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville (R-Monroe) has previously said he would not support RTW, but is feeling pressure from donors, Tea Party activists, and right-wing members of his caucus. He is the chair of the Government Operations Committee that could take up the RTW issue this week.
We don’t agree with Sen. Richardville on every issue, but we certainly respect that he has opposed RTW in the past. He needs to know that Michganders want more jobs, not fewer rights.
Working America has endorsed the following candidates and ballot initiatives in the 2012 election. These endorsements do not cover all the candidates and ballot issues in which we have a stake, but they all reflect the passion of our members and the values of our organization.
On November 6, please consider the following as you go to vote:
We’re proud to support President Barack Obama for re-election on Tuesday.
Four years ago, the nation was in crisis. We’d seen nearly a decade of stagnating wages, growing corporate power and steady erosion of the middle class. We were squandering time and resources we could have been using to rebuild America and create a fairer economy. In the fall, an under-regulated, irresponsible and out-of-control financial system detonated, which led to a massive recession and the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs every month. We nearly lost a major American industry as the recession crippled auto companies.
Today, we’ve seen nearly three straight years of jobs being added in the private sector. Though things are still tough, we stopped the nosedive of our economy avoided the catastrophic depression that seemed imminent in 2008. We saved nearly a million jobs or more by rescuing the auto industry. And what’s more, we passed much-needed reforms to our health care system and our financial system that will help protect working people and rein in corporate power. None of this was inevitable, none of it was easy, and none of it would have happened if our hard work hadn’t elected Barack Obama as our president.
President Obama also signed into law the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and an important credit card reform bill. He passed the Recovery Act that halted the economic collapse, cut taxes for working-class and middle class families and invested in our schools, our infrastructure and new kinds of energy. And he appointed champions for working people to the U.S. Supreme Court, the National Labor Relations Board and the new Consumer Financial Protection Board.
We haven’t agreed with the president on everything, but when it comes down to it, he’s shown that he wants to make America work better for middle class and working-class families. His values and his priorities are the same ones we hear from ordinary people at their doors thousands of times a week: building prosperity by strengthening the middle class, ensuring a great education for our kids, keeping the promise of Social Security and Medicare for today’s retirees and tomorrow’s.
Obama’s opponent, Mitt Romney, has been hard to pin down on a lot of issues, but on the basic economic issues that matter most, his views are remarkably clear: he thinks corporations and the very wealthy are the most important actors in the economy, and so in order to make the economy work we have to tilt it ever-further in favor of those rich and powerful actors. He said we should “let Detroit go bankrupt” rather than investing in the auto industry. He named Paul Ryan as his running mate—endorsing a radical plan to demolish Medicare and leave seniors at the mercy of private insurance companies. As a finance-industry CEO, he exemplified the worst trends in our economy, stripping companies of value for himself and his shareholders and leaving the people who worked for those companies stranded. In his business career, he was referred to as a “pioneer” of outsourcing, and his proposals would give companies further incentives to ship He’s maddeningly unspecific about much of his tax plan, but every serious analysis shows that he would give bigger tax breaks to millionaires (like him) than even George W. Bush did. And he has declared time and time again that his top priority is repealing the health care reform and Wall Street reform that President Obama worked so hard to pass.
This isn’t a close call. President Obama’s skill and leadership in stopping the economic collapse and putting in place health care reform and Wall Street reform would be enough to earn him a second term—but the case for a vote for Obama is even clearer when you compare it to what a Romney administration would look like.
On Tuesday, we recommend a vote for President Obama—and we hope you’ll get your friends and family to the polls, too.