Tags: michigan | right | work | unions

Unions Plan to Fight Michigan Labor Law

Wednesday, 12 Dec 2012 10:10 AM

By Bill Hoffmann

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Conservative state leaders are facing a powerful backlash from labor unions following the enactment of Michigan’s landmark right-to-work legislation — signed into law by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder Tuesday, Politico reports.

“We’re just going to have to be prepared to fight back like never before,” Lee Saunders, president of the public-sector labor giant AFSCME, told Politico’s Alexander Burns and Maggie Haberman.

“You look at Ohio, where you have a Republican governor and Republicans control the House and Senate, the same in Wisconsin, and we’re just going to have to be prepared . . . This is going to be a long-term battle.”

Michigan’s new law limits the labor unions’ power to collect dues, which puts a huge damper on their funding and makes it less likely that workers would decide to organize. It is the 24th state to do so.

According to Politico, the AFL-CIO has amassed large campaign operations in Pennsylvania, Florida, Nevada, Ohio, and Michigan, and deployed new staff to those states. Unions hope to undo Michigan’s right-to-work law — which they call a “right to work for less” law — through a referendum, which may or may not be legally viable.

Republicans are standing firm.

“Today is a game changer for Michigan, for its workers and for our future, Speaker Jase Bolger told The New York Times.

“This is the day when Michigan freed its workers,” Rep. Lisa Posthumus Lyons told the newspaper.

The new law is also the latest sign that the power of organized labor is shrinking in the United States, with American unions already have a fraction of the influence they did a few decades ago, CNN reports.

Only about 12 percent of workers are union members, down from 20 percent in 1983.

Gordon Lafer, a University of Oregon professor of labor studies and opponent of right-to-work laws, said big businesses are among those behind the movement to crush unions.

"I think an important question to think about is: Why are big private companies spending a lot of money and energy fighting public sector unions?’’ Lafer told CNN.

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