Right-to-work opponents have been throwing around failed gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos’ name any chance they can get when talking about who was backing the lightning-fast passage of legislation in December.
The deep-pocketed DeVos — whose family made its money by building Amway into a worldwide home cleaning and personal hygiene products — hasn’t said much about his role in successfully pushing through the divisive bill.
But in an appearance before the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., recently, DeVos spelled out exactly the impetus and strategy used in Michigan to get the issue passed by the Legislature.
“Freedom to Work was simply the right thing to do.” DeVos told the conservative group. “By casting off the practice of forced unionization; Michigan now publicly declares to other states and in fact the world, that we embrace freedom for our workers, true equality in the workplace and that we are ready to compete with anyone, anywhere to create economic opportunity for our Michigan families.”
DeVos continued: “My purpose this morning is to pull back the curtain a little and share the story of how it happened.”
DeVos said with the state in decline, Big Labor was able to survive through “special protections that made it immune from the dynamics of a free, just and open society.” Unions were able to turn auto companies and suppliers “into giant entitlement troughs.”
The timing was right, he said, with union membership falling, a stubborn recession and neighboring states moving to limit labor’s influence. He also pointed out Republican domination of state government as a factor, a governor who tried to develop a relationship with unions, but unions wouldn’t let that happen. Ultimately, Proposal 2 was the “union overreach” that set the right-to-work push in motion.
DeVos credited the business community, key lawmakers, The Mackinac Center for Public Policy were key in getting the ball rolling.
Speed was critical, too, he said, to avoid “violence and abuse by the unions.” The December lame duck session was an ideal remedy for pushing through the legislation, he added. Also key was a message – calling the effort Freedom to Work – and preparation for backlash from opponents. “Unfortunately, the violence and riots did occur as expected,” DeVos said.
His lessons learned: Develop a plan, time it right, act quickly and the message is critical.