By James P. Hoffa, General President, International Brotherhood of Teamsters
Published in The Detroit News on February 13, 2013
Michigan’s lame-duck legislative session was just a warm up for radical billionaires. They are now spreading their gospel of greed and corporate empowerment to Statehouses throughout the country.
Anti-worker laws enacted in Michigan are now appearing as legislation in New Hampshire, Maine, Pennsylvania and Missouri. The strikingly similar language suggests a coordinated attack on working people.
Michigan’s misnamed “right to work” laws, which actually weaken workers’ rights, were written by ALEC – the secretive American Legislative Exchange Council. Key sponsors of the bill are ALEC members: Sen. Arlan Meekhoff, Rep. Tom McMillin and Rep. Pete Lund.
Weeks after Michigan passed so-called “right to work,” nearly identical legislation was introduced in Pennsylvania’s Legislature by Republican State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, also an ALEC member.
Their agenda isn’t limited to weakening workers’ rights, and it isn’t limited to ALEC. It is exactly what Hillary Clinton called it: A vast right-wing conspiracy.
From state to state, lawmakers beholden to corporations and billionaires are introducing the same bills. The same national spokesmen are testifying on their behalf. And the same interlocking network of think tanks, lobbyists and astroturf groups are providing financial and rhetorical cover.
The conspirators move easily from state to state. They sniff out the possibility of passing billionaire-enrichment legislation over the objections of working people. They spring into action, buying up air time, handing out market-tested propaganda to the news media and prepping fearful, weak or gullible lawmakers.
They want to eliminate all aspects of government that don’t directly benefit them. They want to eradicate public education, cut or privatize essential government services and eliminate community assets like parks and pools. They want to empower corporations by lowering wages, weakening regulation and shifting the tax burden from big business to poor individuals.
And in state after state, you’ll see this shadowy but powerful network try to strangle the clean energy industry in its cradle.
That’s because the most powerful members of the billionaire’s club -- Charles and David Koch -- owe their fortune to the oil and gas company they inherited. The Kochs founded ALEC and continue to support it. They are linked to the Club for Growth, which ran radio ads supporting Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s attack on public workers before lawmakers had even seen the bill. They founded Citizens for a Sound Economy, which split into David Koch’s project, Americans For Prosperity, and FreedomWorks, a largely corporate-funded group that supports right winger Glenn Beck.
We know much more about the vast right-wing conspiracy since the Clintons weathered its attacks. Every state seems to have its Koch brothers’ mini-me. In Michigan, it’s Dick DeVos, who provided the money and cover to pass the anti-worker laws in December. In Colorado, it’s the Coors brothers. In North Carolina, it’s Art Pope
So last week in Missouri’s Capitol, it was no surprise to see Mark Mix testify in favor of a “right-to-work” bill. He’s director of the Koch-linked National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. Nor was it a surprise to see an employee of the West Michigan Policy Forum speaking to lawmakers during a strategy session the night before a hearing on the bill. The forum is funded by Dick DeVos.
“Freedom” and “choice” are the words most often used to cloak the true intent of these deeply anti-worker policies. But they don’t think freedom and choice are something working people should have.
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