The War On Workers
This past December, Governor Rick Snyder and Michigan legislatures passed a bill making Michigan a “Right to Work” state. The bill’s foremost effect is that unions in Michigan will now be unable to require union members to pay union dues, which were previously required if (and only if) one elected to be a part of a union.
So why does this bill have union members, including some educators at Lahser, up in arms? Well simply put, this bill will greatly hurt the power of unions and the benefits that member’s draw from being a part of them.
Donna Learmont, Ph.D, a teacher of 27 years and Lahser faculty member, compared the situation to “living in a city, and not paying your taxes, but then when your house catches on fire expecting the fire department to show up and put it out.”
As a result of these non-paying members receiving benefits, less money will be contributed to unions all across the state of Michigan. This means the unions will have significantly less power to fight for the rights of union workers.
So it’s no wonder that in a largely unionized state like Michigan, these union workers are angry with the state government meddling with their organizations. Workers in Michigan have a long history of fighting for their rights in the workplace, and they will continue to be proud and active members in the political process.
Learmont went on to say that as a result of the unions being weakened, both wages and safety would be lowered in the workplace; these are two problems that unions have always worked hard to prevent.
And who’s to say what this bill will do to our schools in Michigan, which are struggling enough as is. Take a look at Detroit for example; where, with salaries being lowered and class sizes being increased, are we going to find teachers who will actually want to teach in these conditions?
With public education in Michigan in as bad of shape as it is already, Learmont continued to say that within the next decade we can expect to see the state government privatizing public education, cutting pensions and health care being greatly affected.
With these issues troubling teachers around the state, how are teachers in Bloomfield dealing with the additional stress and chaos caused by the consolidation of the two nationally accredited high schools in the district?
Charlie Hollerith, Principal at Lahser High School, was unavailable for comment on the matter. But both parents and students alike can only imagine how the district plans on attracting the high level of educators it has in past years.
When asked if the union would continue to be relevant, Learmont answered yes. Where there are [people] there will be disagreements, unions are there to represent people during these disagreements.
“I follow [politics in Michigan] like some people follow sports,” said Learmont; and just as any avid fan would do, Learmont followed the Right to Work movement all the way to the steps of the capitol in Lansing during the protests up until the day the bill was passed.
So how do the unions plan to regain their once powerful political position? According to Learmont unions will need to focus more so on putting politicians in power that will take a stand for labor unions across the state as opposed to simply raising more funds in order to make up for the coming budget cuts.
For the unions, the key to success in their campaign for their rights will lie in their ability to gain influence through electing the right public officials concerned. But what do the opposing corporate politicians have in store for the Right to Work “war” of the future?
In a state literally driving the American auto industry, corporate lobby’s seem to pose an almost undefeatable opposition for the unions in both size and wealth, especially after the Right to Work bill. With organizations like ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) driving the conservative economic agenda in Michigan, the unions certainly have will be fighting an uphill battle in years to come.
Michael Banerian, a Lahser senior and Republican activist, stated that there are three points driving the Right to Work movement. Firstly, it makes it so that unhappy member’s aren’t paying dues towards causes they don’t support. Secondly, it gives incentives to companies moving into Michigan by making more non-union workers available for employment. And lastly, it makes it so workers can bargain for individual benefits.
So how exactly does the Republican movement plan on keeping their proudest achievement in active legislation? Banerian says, “ We need to show that our way of doing things is better than [the Democratic Party’s] way.” As is true with any effective political strategy.
And there are some facts that lend validity to his statement. Over the past two years that Governor Snyder has been in power, unemployment has dropped nearly 4 points, which is an impressive stat. However, how will the conservative stance affect Michiganders in years to come? Only time can tell.