By James P. Hoffa, General President, International Brotherhood of Teamsters
Published in The Detroit News on December 12, 2012
Working families are taking to the streets, the shopping malls and to Lansing to protest the attempt to enact a law that conveys no rights and provides no work.
The past few days of action are only the opening salvo in Michigan’s civil war. It is a fight between billionaires who want to turn the Midwest into Canada's Mexico and working people trying to save Michigan's middle class.
We didn't want this war, but Gov. Rick Snyder went ahead and provoked it. Knowing what would happen, he jammed through the Legislature a bill that will increase poverty, lower wages and weaken workplace democracy.
Snyder and his fellow anti-worker Republicans know right-to-work-for-less will harm Michigan’s working families. And they know most people know that. Small business owners are speaking out against this attack on their customers. They know lower wages for workers mean less business for them, and that they will go down with the communities crumbling around them.
That's exactly why Snyder and radical Republicans spent two years lying about their intentions. They were too cowardly to tell the voters what they really planned to do -- the bidding of their ultra-wealthy benefactors.
In the end, the likes of the Koch brothers, Dick DeVos and Ron Weiser stiffened their spines with enough money and PR support. Politically active billionaires spent $18 million over the past four years to create a propaganda machine to allow them to attack workers.
On the day that Snyder announced his about-face on right to work, a brand new group linked to DeVos launched a $1 million radio and television campaign to support it. The Koch brothers’ phony Tea Party group, Americans for Prosperity, set up a heated tent outside the Capitol and bused in supporters. Business lobbyists began spewing DeVos’ Mackinac Institute’s dishonest talking points.
Still, all the propaganda in the world couldn’t hide the gutless way legislators passed the bill: during a lame duck session. They did it in the course of a few hours with no committees, no hearings and no public input. They surrounded themselves with reinforcements of state police, who just for good measure were exempted from the bill. And they locked the Statehouse doors.
If you think the past few days have been difficult for Michigan, just wait. The next two years will be like nothing you’ve ever seen. Snyder’s attack on the middle class is worse than Gov. John Kasich’s in Ohio, worse than Gov. Rick Scott in Florida, worse than Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin.
It is truly a betrayal of the voters to turn Michigan into a battleground while destroying the middle class – just to pay back some political enemies.
I predict we will win this war. Voters are waking up to the dangers of this extreme, divisive brand of politics and more and more are rejecting it. The anti-worker wing of the Republican Party is getting weaker, not stronger. That’s why they voted the bill in a lame duck session – because they don’t have the votes next year.
To read archived articles from General President Hoffa, click here.