GOP Assault on Unions Will Prove Costly

Republicans are proving they don't care about working people with their continued push for union-busting laws.

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Union members from around the country rally at the Michigan State Capitol to protest a vote on Right-to-Work legislation in Lansing, Mich., Dec. 11, 2012.
Union members from around the country rallied Tuesday at the Michigan State Capitol to protest a vote on Right-to-Work legislation in Lansing, Mich.

Sunday marked an important anniversary in labor history. On Dec. 30, 1936 at a GM plant in Flint, Mich., members of the United Auto Workers began the union's first sit down strike. Gov. Rick Snyder of Michigan awakened a sleeping giant last month when he disenfranchised workers in a state with a proud union heritage.

If conservatives really cared about working people, they wouldn't push for so called "right to work," also known as "right to work for free" laws. Republicans don't care about working people, they are pushing union-busting laws to undermine the ability of labor unions to fight for working families. If the GOP really cared about working people, Governor Snyder wouldn't be leading the charge to bust the unions.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the Republican Party.]

An analyst appearing on CNBC noted that many of the right to work for free states are friendly to businesses. That's just the problem. These states are good for business but bad for the people who work for those businesses. Most of the states at the low end of per capita income are right to work free states.

It shouldn't be any surprise that per capita income is lower in union-busting states. Right to work free undermines labor unions which in turn undermines the capacity that people have to bargain collectively for better wages, good benefits, and decent working conditions. It's great not belonging to a union while you work in a company with a union. The members of the union bargain with the business to improve the health, wealth, and well-being of workers. If you don't belong and pay dues to the union, you get the benefits anyway. Economists call this the "free rider" problem. Call it what it really is, the "freeloader problem"

[Read the U.S. News Debate: Are 'Right-to-Work' Laws Good for States?]

Never has a "lame duck" legislature done more to earn that title. Last month the GOP retained its majority in the Michigan House of Representatives because of clever redistricting. Now the GOP has 54 percent of the seats there even though Republicans won only 45 percent of the total votes cast for house candidates in November. But the people elected five more Democrats to the state House of Representatives last month. Nine GOP members voted against governor. The governor and Republican legislative leadership rammed the new law through the lame duck session because they knew that they wouldn't have the votes to do it now.

Republicans in Michigan should watch their backs. In Michigan's sister state Ohio, Republican Gov. John Kasich tried to make it harder for working people to bargain for better wages. When people in Ohio had a chance to beat union-busting at the polls, voters used the opportunity well. The governor's union-busting initiative went down in flames by a two-to-one margin.

[See 2012: The Year in Cartoons.]

The people have spoken and so has the president. Barack Obama won Michigan's electoral votes handily on Election Day. I was proud of the president for standing up to the big business takeover of Michigan when he was there after the election.

Barack Obama beat Mitt Romney in Ohio and Michigan. Exit polls in both states showed that a large majority of voters favored the car company rescue that saved hundreds of thousands of jobs, many of them union jobs. Romney lost the electoral votes in Ohio and Michigan and the presidency because he opposed the rescue and tried to mess with working families there. The GOP continues its assault against good paying jobs at its own electoral peril.

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