Michigan Democrats stepped up their efforts today to stop Republican attacks on labor that bear striking similarities to the recent events in Wisconsin that stripped workers of their fundamental rights to organize and collectively bargain.
Under the guise of "balancing the budget", newly elected Republican Governor Rick Snyder and the Republican majority in the legislature have pushed through a series of bills that would allow fairly negotiated contracts to be broken, prohibit communities from using project labor agreements that guarantee local employment on construction projects, and given an already struggling workforce new reasons to be worried about how they will be able to make ends meet.
One particular piece of legislation is not only being viewed as an attack on labor, however, but as a fundamental attack on the rights of voters to choose their leaders. The legislation would create "Emergency Financial Managers," unelected appointees of the Governor that would be sent into a struggling local community or school district, force that local governmental unit to pay them an uncapped salary for an undefined period of time, and have the power to overrule elected officials, dissolve any contracts that government has entered into with employees or contractors, and even go so far as to remove elected officials from office. There are not only no clear triggers that would determine when and how these "managers" could be sent into communities, but there is no ability for voters within that community to have a voice in the decisions these managers are making.
Thankfully, it seems that Democrats in the State Senate are not going down without a fight.
A rally was held today at the State Capitol in Lansing in which an estimated 5,000 protesters joined together in opposition to these anti-labor, anti-democracy efforts by Republicans, and Senate Democratic Leader Gretchen Whitmer showed up with a strong message of support.
She announced that she would be introducing an amendment to Michigan's constitution that would guarantee the right of any worker to organize and collectively bargain for their wages and benefits. As she pointed out (watch the video), this is about showing Michigan's workers where their leaders truly stand.
“This amendment would secure in Michigan’s Constitution the basic right for every individual to have a seat at the negotiating table. [Republicans] say we’re not Wisconsin, well then let’s prove it.”
Whitmer pointed out the hypocrisy of the Republican leadership continuing to tell working families that they support their right to collectively bargain while introducing and passing legislation that strips those rights away from them one piece at a time. She said if Governor Snyder truly does support those rights, then he should have no problem supporting those rights being protected in the constitution. If he doesn't, then it's time to at least be honest with voters about it.
"It’s time that politicians stop telling our working families what they want to hear, then pass bills that weaken their rights and threaten the wages and benefits of men and women who actually work for a living."
Whitmer may not have the numbers she would need in the Senate to stop the Republican efforts, not to mention pass her constitutional amendment, but it certainly appears that she's not going to let them get away with their assault on the rights of the state's workforce without a pretty loud fight.
She had 5,000 people outside of the Capitol today ready to support her, and she'll need them to be just as loud and just as vocal as they travel back to their homes throughout Michigan and share the message they heard about the need to stop Michigan from becoming the next Wisconsin.