Governor Snyder has portrayed his right to work legislation as a reaction to the push by unions to enshrine collective bargaining rights into the state constitution with Proposal 2 this past November. Essentially he is suggesting the unions brought this on themselves.
However the reality is that this was always the governor’s plan. He knew if he let the cat out of the bag before the election, those who support collective bargaining but oppose amending the constitution might have supported a less than perfect bill. He also knew that picking this fight before the election could put some Republican legislators in jeopardy of losing their seats and he needed all of the support he could get if he was going to take down unions in the state of Michigan.
The governor also showed some of his cards when he made his first priority a tax break for corporations at the expense of public education. And when it became obvious that the state would have a budget surplus, the governor made excuses as to why the schools would not see any of that money.
The governor may want to tread lightly on the idea of this just being a reaction to a union campaign. Not only does such a line of thinking seem childish and beneath a high ranking elected official, but when a leader of a foreign country “punishes” his people simply because they opposed his wishes, we label that leader as a dictator. Neither of these labels will help the governor in future legislation.
To make this “right to work” legislation seem less like a punishment, the governor has tried to spin this as the “right to choose.” The problem is the governor has done nothing to make you think that he actually cares about a Michigander’s right to choose.
He has castrated the voters’ ability to challenge many bills by inserting appropriations in to some of the most controversial bills, meaning they can never face the same voter directed referendums that would remove bad laws, such as was the case for the emergency manager law that was voted on and repealed last month. He and the legislature have ended the voters’ choice to contest ill-conceived legislation.
He supported an emergency manager law that took away the people’s right to choose their city’s own path to recovery and when the people chose to repeal this law the governor acted quickly to replace the law with a new one circumventing the people’s choice.
He is supporting a bundle of education bills that allow the state to take over any school, regardless of performance, eliminating the local community’s choice on how to run their own schools.
He signed legislation the past summer requiring public educators to pay 20% of the cost of health care, eliminating their choice to take health care benefits in lieu of other forms of compensation.
And now the governor is supporting a “choice” for a relatively small number of people that will lead to lower wages and a reduced likelihood of receiving health insurance and pensions for all Michigan workers – public or private. And since this legislation contains appropriations it will be referendum proof – again eliminating the Michigan voters’ choice.
As much as the governor will want to frame this as a debate about choice, his own actions suggest the public’s ability to choose is of little consequence to him. The belief that his decision regarding right to work is a retaliative measure is the thing most likely to stick in voters’ minds, and unfortunately for the governor and Republican legislators, retaliation is a never-ending cycle.