As thousands of right-to-work protestors descend on Lansing today, state lawmakers are in the final hours of debates before deciding whether Michigan will be the 24th state to pass the highly controversial legislation.
Right-to-work laws make it illegal to require payment of union dues as a condition of employment, but workers who opt out of paying those dues would still receive all the wages and benefits of the union contract negotiated for their workplace.
It seems unfair, opponents argue, to force middle-income wageworkers to make such a decision; of course a few extra dollars seem more useful –short-term—in pockets than in union coffers. The long-term effect of right-to-work laws on unions is projected to be a crippling one, while critics of right to work laws say there is no evidence that such legislation improves the economic climate of a state.
Proponents of right-to-work laws say optional union membership make a state more welcoming to businesses. Governor Snyder said in an interview last week that Michigan should go the way of Indiana, which passed similar legislation in February. Snyder, who had said that right-to-work was not on his agenda, changed his talking points last week when the bills flew through the house in a matter of days.
“I looked at it as ‘this is becoming divisive’. I’m confident that we’re doing the right thing,” Snyder said of his decision to throw his support behind right-to-work legislation. Snyder said right-to-work would force unions to make membership more “exciting” to entice workers to pay dues instead of making it mandatory for employment.
Snyder said in an interview on WDET's Craig Fahle show that his support for right-to-work is twofold. First:
“It’s about worker choice. It’s about giving the workers a freedom to choose because this whole issue is about worker’s relationship with the union. This has nothing to do with collective bargaining and the relationship between the union and the employer. I think it’s important that people not be forced to pay to belong to an organization if they don’t see any value in that. They should have the ability to choose. I encourage unions to be proactive in presenting great value equations that get people excited to say they should join.”
Second? Better jobs, Snyder says:
“I’ve been tracking carefully what’s been going on in Indiana they passed similar legislation back in February. And if you look at the pipeline with the Indiana economic development corporation there are 90 companies that have identified themselves as having right to work as one of the considerations of coming to Indiana. Literally those companies could end up creating thousands of jobs in the state that otherwise would be there and a lot of those jobs are good jobs.”
Still, opponents of right to work laws say that all economic boosts from right to work are purely speculative citing that there is no proof that right to work packs a jump to economic growth. Snyder said right-to-work must be paired with other business-friendly legislation within states in order to be economically effective.
On the other side of the right-to-work debate stands President Obama, who was very clear at a rally in Redford yesterday that right-to-work was wrong for Michigan:
"These so-called right-to-work laws, they don't have anything to do with economics, they have everything to do with politics. What they're really talking about is giving you the right to work for less money."
Michigan could become a right to work state before the new year. A fierce legal battle is expected in the wake of the passage of the legislation.
If voters were looking to hear more from presidential candidates last night on U. S. leadership in the world, they were sorely disappointed.
Presidential candidates President Barack Obama and GOP challenger, Governor Mitt Romney, rolled out the same discussion points from the previous two debates with topics often sticking on the domestic economy, taxes, and military spending.
The debate, which was slated to focus on foreign policy issues, offered nothing new to the presidential race in terms of content. Discussion had on affairs abroad stayed wrapped around the turmoil in the Middle East—namely Iran and Syria—and trade with China.
During the 90-minute debate, both Obama and Romney addressed some hot-button issues with Romney agreeing with Obama at many points in the discussion. It was as if the rest of the globe did not exist, or at best was irrelevant.
Nowhere in the debate was any talk of Europe’s economic scare, the Central American drug trade, climate change, a rising India, Sub-Saharan Africa or international economics.
Instead, both candidates took whatever chance they could get to drag the discussion back home to domestic issues while moderator Bob Schieffer sat back watched it happen.
When Scheiffer asked about America’s role in the world Romney skirted the question almost entirely in his two-minute response. With a vague statement that the United States has a responsibility to make peace in the world, he quickly jumped home to safety.
"In order to be able to fulfill our role in the world, America must be strong -- America must lead," Romney said. "And for that to happen, we have to strengthen our economy here at home."
Romney then slipped into the same rhetoric from the first two debates, blaming Obama for the sluggish economy and claimed to know what it takes to get the economy booming again.
Obama broke from the topic of foreign affairs in a similar fashion during other parts of the debate. When talking about military spending, he said the focus should be more on spending on education and domestic issues.
“There are some things we have to do here at home as well. It’s very hard to project leadership around the world when we’re not doing what we need to do [at home],” Obama said, using that as segue to talk about more education and other issues facing the U.S.
Schieffer at one point asked the candidates to stay on the topic saying “"let me get back to foreign policy." Schieffer otherwise let the two spin off however they pleased.
The tone of the debate was one that showed an aggressive Obama, perhaps making up ground lost from the first debate, and Romney trying to stick on his strongest point, the national economy.
Obama served up the toughest jabs and smart talk of the night while Romney’s strategy was what some pundits are calling a “prevent defense” tactic: letting sharp charges from the President slide in order to seem less vulnerable.
One of the most tweetable moments of the debate came when Obama chided Romney for numbers he used to portray shrinking on military spending.
“You mentioned the Navy and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets," Obama said, pointing out that times and technology has changed.
During the debate Obama repeatedly aimed to pin Romney as out of touch.
The President said Romney was stuck in the past with outdated foreign and social policy. “The 80’s called, they want their foreign policy back,” he said of Romney’s charge that Russia was one of America’s biggest threats.
Romney took a few swings at Obama during the debate, saying that the United States is loosing its influence abroad under the President and slamming the president for his attempts at diplomacy.
"The president began what I would call an apology tour, going to the Middle East and blaming America," Romney said.
Obama argued U.S. foreign relations have improved under his administration.
When it came to the closing statements, both candidates drove home national issues instead of foreign relations.
Romney in his closing remarks focused on America’s the struggling economy asserting that he has what it takes to build "strong leadership" and rebuild the U.S. economy.
Obama focused on what he has done to clean up after the Bush administration including ending two wars and getting the economy running against after near collapse in 2009 when he entered office. Obama then compared Romney to Bush, saying the GOP candidate would enact similar policy as the former president.
While Obama seemed to be the stronger performer (it seemed hardly fair, a sitting president pitted against a first-term governor), it mattered little. Other than entertainment, the debate provided no new information to the U.S. electorate.
If nothing else, Detroiters got a chuckle out of hearing Romney claim to be "the son of Detroit."
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