Growing and strengthening west Michigan's middle class
GRAND RAPIDS March 6, 2015– Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin, along with Gov. Scott Walker, are back to their union busting ways. The Badger State’s right-wing politicians continue to ramp up their passage of right-to-work legislation amid tens of thousands of union protesters at the Madison state capitol– a scene reminiscent of Walker’s 2011 attack on Wisconsin public employees, as well as Michigan’s own right-to-work battle in Lansing in 2012.
More than two years after Republican legislators and Gov. Rick Snyder promised that passing right-to-work in Michigan would benefit our economy, we have yet to see any real results with new jobs, higher wages or new business. In fact, as a result of a weakened labor movement, wages continue to stagnate for the middle class, and Michigan unemployment (6.4%) remains higher than surrounding states that haven’t passed right-to-work laws (Minnesota 3.7%; Missouri 5.4%; Ohio 5.1%; Illinois 6.2%).
So why do Republican lawmakers continue to think right-to-work will create jobs and improve economic conditions for the middle class? And what will happen to the middle class if these anti-union laws continue to spread across the country?
We asked west Michigan union leaders and elected officials for their thoughts on legislative union busting:
“Republicans are pushing right-to-work because they are beholden to corporate special interests who want to take America back to the 1880s. They want to destroy unions, slash retirement benefits, repeal workplace health and safety laws, and drastically cut wages for all employees. In addition, by crushing unions, special interests hope to impoverish and weaken one of the most effective counterweights to corporate political dominance.” Brandon Dillon (D-Grand Rapids), State Representative
“The main impact I have seen from right-to-work is that a deep divide was formed between the Republicans and the Democrats in the legislature making it even more difficult to get anything done in Lansing. Right-to-work was the ultimate divisive issue in our state, poisoning the political water necessary to get any good bi-partisan legislation enacted.” George Heartwell, Grand Rapids Mayor
“If anti-worker laws continue for the next 20 years, everyone can expect wages, benefits and working conditions to continue to decline. There will be no real labor movement that will be taken seriously to speak for workers’ rights. Other anti-worker laws will become a common thing. Labor solidarity could possibly become a thing of the past.
History proves that when labor stands together, everyone benefits.” Todd Jordan (Ironworkers 340), Kent-Ionia Labor Council Trustee
“All Unions will be affected by right-to-work, some more than others– building trades less, manufacturing more. Wages for all workers, union and non-union, will be pressured downward simply by the old saying UNITED WE BARGAIN DIVIDED WE BEG.” Dave Rutz (Sheet Metal Workers 7)