by Maureen D. Taylor
State Chair, MWRO
Workers entered a new world yesterday, one that will have ramifications for their futures forever. The legislation called “RIGHT TO WORK” means that workers will forever have the right to work for lower wages, for missing benefits, for non- existent safety regulations, and for no job protections against workplace offenses.
Michigan joins the rest of America and the 23 other states who have already passed similar legislation. The Governor of Michigan, Republican Rick Snyder, was quite candid as he analyzed what the “true” meaning was of this significant vote that has shaken the entire world. Gleefully, he explained that this was not an attack on organized labor but was, in fact, a measure that supports a worker’s right to choose! He went on to say that this legislation allows unions to demonstrate why they are important. If they are unable to convince workers that they are still relevant, workers should be able to stop paying dues. Contracts negotiated by those who decide to stay will still cover non-union employees.
Detroit, Flint, Saginaw, Pontiac – these are all cities that are synonymous with the birth of organized labor. The powerful unions from that era marked forever the strength and the influence of blue-collar workers for years. There was a time when the General Motors worker was the highest paid worker in the world. All contractual agreements negotiated by municipalities, schools, and organizations from city to state were modeled after those written by organized labor. Why? Because these words took into consideration both the health and safety of those covered by those contracts. Wages that separated workers from poverty were negotiated. Health benefits that addressed the medical needs of workers and their families were settled. Time off, continuous training, all kinds of community services programs, blood drives, holiday fund-raisers, events for children and seniors alike – this is the legacy that organized labor has given millions of middle income families.
Yesterday, that world was changed forever. The race to the bottom has been fueled, the back of the Democratic Party – which depends on unions at election time – has been broken. Republicans, who depend on corporate dollars, have secured electoral victories for decades to come. Is this the battle we want to fight? Time to analyze what just happened, and why.