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Michigan: Message matters

The Detroit Free Press’ Riley: “History was an important task that somebody forgot to assign, so now there is a generation of young people -- and other not-so-young-people -- who don't belong to unions, don't know the union history and don't really care about what legislators are doing this week. Unions built the middle class. Unions improved the standard of living for workers. No one standing Tuesday at the state Capitol shouting at the top of his or her lungs about injustice and calling the governor a rat was talking enough about history or marketing the good work of unions.”

The Detroit Free Press editorial: “The two bills the state House dispatched to the governor Tuesday afternoon included an appropriation that innoculates them against a voter referendum. When he signed both bills into law hours later, Snyder completed a cynical charade that mocks the citizen choice he purports to champion.” It also calls what Snyder and Republicans did “cowardly” and “completely trashes the democratic process.”

It concludes: “Snyder's conceit is that he'll be inaugurating a new era in Michigan when he affixes his signature to the bills House Republicans approved Tuesday. But it's an era in which he'll have fewer options, and speak for a narrower, more partisan constituency than the one that elected him two years ago.”

On MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Snyder again blamed unions for going against his urging to push Proposal 2. “The discussion was going on and since it was getting louder, I decided to take a leadership” stance. “I don’t believe this is actually anti-union. … Unions have to step up to deliver value.”

Yesterday, Snyder was on MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell Reports, in which he also laid the blame on labor, intimating that a grudge is at the center of his reversal. A year ago, Snyder said, “I don't think it's an appropriate subject for us to be dealing with today, because we have higher priorities that need to be addressed in our state.” And during his campaign, he said of right-to-work laws: "It is a divisive, polarizing issue that will drive people apart.”

He even told Congress just this year that despite some pushing the issue in the state, “My perspective is is that I’ve made it clear it’s not on my agenda. Right to work is an issue that’s a very divisive issue people feel very strongly about … I’m the relentless positive action person, so we have many problems in Michigan that are much more pressing that I can find common ground issues we can work together on before we get into divisive issues, and we’re showing great success. … Right to work is an issue that may have its place, but I don’t think it’s appropriate in Michigan in 2012.”

Is what’s behind Snyder’s reversal really that unions defied his advice and brought “right-to-work” on themselves, or is it something else? The Detroit Free Press reported last week: “Gov. Snyder's right-to-work initiative has the coordinated support of Americans for Prosperity, the conservative non-profit organization that funded Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's efforts to strip that state's public employee unions of their collective bargaining rights. AFP was founded by wealthy industrialists Charles and David Koch. Their business interests in Wisconsin include a branch of their pulp and paper giant Georgia-Pacific, a coal subsidiary, timber plants and a pipeline network.”

From an AFP press release: “Michigan passage of right-to-work legislation will be the shot heard around the world for workplace freedom," AFP said in a press release Thursday. "A victory over forced unionization in a union stronghold like Michigan would be an unprecedented win on par with Wisconsin that would pave the way for right to work in states across our nation."

Politico reports that labor unions “are eyeing a large-scale counteroffensive against the conservative state leaders who have slashed away at union power since the 2010 midterm elections. For national labor groups, the upcoming gubernatorial elections in 2013 and 2014 may be a greater test of their political swat than even the 2012 presidential race.”

Said AFL-CIO political director Michael Podhorzer: “We consider 2014 to be absolutely crucial. These are politicians who aren’t even listening to the results of the election. They have an agenda to not just destroy unions, but many of them go after immigrants. All of them go after voting rights. And giving them another four-year term is going to be horrific for the workers and citizens in those states.”