UAW's King ignited war for worker freedom

Were it not for UAW President Bob King’s introduction of the divisive Prop 2 in November’s campaign, right-to-work would not be an issue today.

With his March announcement of a constitutional amendment to ban right-to-work and reverse Republican-led government reforms, sources say that King united a broad coalition of business, grass-roots activists and legislators in a long-term strategy to not only defeat Prop 2 – but to enact game-changing right-to-work legislation in Michigan.

Politics is about personalities as well as issues, and King’s key mistake was honking off Gov. Rick Snyder who, until King’s Prop 2 provocation, had tried to keep right-to-work on the sidelines.

But Prop 2 – which would also have overturned Snyder’s key budget reforms – forced One Tough Nerd’s hand.

From March on, Snyder joined conservative activists that were paving the ground – not just to defeat Prop 2 – but give every Michigan worker the freedom of right-to-work. It was an audacious strategy that took full form at The West Michigan Policy Conference in September. The conference brings together the state’s top conservative business leaders, legislators, economists, and activists – and the agenda was heavy on right-to-work.

The message was clear and it was aimed at a national audience: If King aimed to make Michigan Ground Zero to eliminate right-to-work, then business interests should make Michigan Ground Zero to enact right-to-work.

In short, defeating Prop 2 AND passing R2W in Michigan – the cradle of the UAW- would be a crippling blow to the national labor movement.

America’s fastest-growing states are right-to-work states. Indeed, Michigan has been losing jobs to southern R2W states (and now Indiana) for decades. No state would be more symbolic of labor’s decline than passage of right-to-work in Michigan. In pushing for right-to-work today, Gov. Snyder – and his House and Senate partners, Jase Bolger and Randy Richardville – are not just crowning a strategy that has been in place for months, they are winning a major battle in America’s War for Worker Freedom.

That war will finally be won when Snyder wins re-election in 2014 – and any labor referendum to overturn right-to-work goes down in flames.


Henry Payne
Henry Payne is the auto critic for The Detroit News. A 25-year newspaper veteran, Payne is also a Pulitzer Prize-nominated cartoonist with United Feature Syndicate, a former columnist and editorial writer for The News, and a contributor to The Wall Street Journal, New York Post, and other publications. His auto reviews appear every Thursday in the Drive section.