Saturday, December 8, 2012

What's happening in Michigan, explained in 3 minutes and 24 seconds.

Right now 1% and their allies in the Republican Party are trying to jam through anti-worker legislation up in Michigan. 

Rep. Brandon Dillon (D-Grand Rapids) does a good job of breaking it down:

Right-to-work is an example of government intruding into the private sector and creates the ability for a worker to benefit from union representation without having to pay for that union representation--in short a "right to freeload".  

What is happening in Michigan right now is another example of how the Republican party is a party attached to protecting the political power and vested interests of a very narrow elite at the expense of the quality of life of working people all across this country.

As I've talked about before, any champion of free markets is a champion of ending government restrictions on organized labor and right now Republicans in Michigan are fighting to be able to use Government policy to redistribute wealth to the 1%.

Dean Baker in his excellent (and free to download) book The End of Loser Liberalism talked about how Right to work is a Government intrusion into the private sector, allowing government policy to skew the marketplace and pick winners and losers--something that Republicans claim they frown upon:

Another example of how labor-management policy is rigged away from market forces is the fact that 22 states currently deny workers freedom of contract with their employers. Under “right-to-work” laws, workers are prohibited from signing contracts with employers that require workers covered by a union contract to pay their share of the union’s costs. The law requires that everyone who is in a union bargaining unit – regardless of whether they are actually in the union – gets the same pay and benefits. The law also requires that the union represent workers in disputes with employers on issues covered by the contract, whether or not a worker is in the union. This means that if a worker who does not pay to support the union is fired, the law requires that the union represent the worker through any appeals process established under the contract.  

While the law requires unions to provide the same benefits to all workers covered by a contract, right-to-work laws prohibit unions from signing agreements with employers that would require workers to pay for the benefits they are receiving. It in effect guarantees representation without taxation. This restriction of freedom of contract is not consistent with a free market. “Right-to-work” laws are just another way in which the right uses the power of the state to reduce the power and income of workers. Free marketers are perfectly willing to deny the freedom of contract to accomplish this end.

Dean Baker. The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive (Kindle Locations 104-110). Center for Economic and Policy Research.

The economic research is very clear cut Right-to-work has no positive impact on job growth (via Economic Policy Institute pdf):

When scholars are most rigorous about separating out the impact of right-to-work laws from other factors, the evidence 
suggests that right-to-work has no effect whatsoever on a state’s employment growth. One of the most recent and 
comprehensive studies estimates the impact of RTW laws while controlling for a wide range of variables, including 
general economic features of the state economy such as the share of gross state product concentrated in manufacturing 
and the average wages and educational level of the workforce; state policies such as personal and corporate tax rates; and 
a range of labor-specific policies including state minimum wage, workers’ compensation, and unemployment insurance 
rates. When these various strands of the the state economy are separated out, the authors report that “right-to-work 
laws…seem to have no effect on economic activity.”

A second recent study compared states with and without right-to-work laws, while controlling for multiple 
economic variables, including a state’s general business climate, in order to separate the impact of right-to-work laws 
from other economic policies of the state.

When the question is thus refined, the author reports that right-to-work 
laws, in and of themselves, have no statistically significant impact whatsoever on either the rate of job growth or the 
number of new businesses opened in a state. “An increase in the probability that a state is right-to-work,” the study finds, 
“has no influence on employment, is associated with a decrease in per-capita personal income and wages/salaries, is 
associated with an increase in proprietors’ income, and has no effect on economic growth.”

Right-to-work laws are associated with lower wages and reduced chances of receiving employer-sponsored health insurance and pensions.  Because of their impacts on the labor market it is estimated these laws decrease hourly wages by 3 percent for all workers.  This is happening at a time when corporate profits are at record highs.

But the fight isn't over yet in Michigan as hundreds of workers were preparing this morning for direct action and civil disobedience.

The union hall couldn't hold all the nurses, autoworkers, Teamsters, teachers, members of SEIU, AFSCME, UFCW, ISO and other unions. Their families, retirees and pastors came too. The overflow crowd listened carefully to the civil disobedience trainer about what their rights are and what they should do when arrested. They were told to de-escalate confrontation, to keep cool heads in the front of the action and put hotheads in the back.

The civil disobedience training, which is open to the news media, is one of a number of actions planned over the next few days. The actions will lead up to a large rally in Lansing on Tuesday to protest the right-to-work-for-less bill expected to become law that day. There will be flash mobs, rallies, fake auctions of the middle class and news conferences. They'll be held in Flint, Saginaw, Lansing, Detroit, Ann Arbor, Kalamazoo -- well, all over the state. 

Be sure to keep workers in Michigan in your thoughts and prayers these next few days as they organize to fight for their very livelihoods...

No comments:

Post a Comment