Major Attack on Academic Freedom and Labor Studies in Michigan

by   Martin Kich

Martin Kich

Martin Kich

In the Michigan Senate, the Appropriations Higher Education Subcommittee included in its budget proposal a major financial penalty against any public college or university that teaches a labor-related course or offers a labor-studies program.

Michigan State University has been considering an agreement to adopt a portion of programming from the National Labor College. A spokesperson for the university said in testimony before the subcommittee: “’We do also provide training for other groups, business groups, others on the other side of the aisle for how to work with unions on the management side. We also teach de-certification of unions as well.’” Continue reading

Walmart Defeated in Michigan

by Sam Stark

Walmart_2_croppedThe people were united and Walmart was defeated.

That’s how the story went Jan. 28 when THE corporate poster child for the low-wage road to higher profits ran smack into an organized movement of community residents as the company sought a rezoning of property at 12 Mile and Southfield Roads [Southfield is just north of Eight Mile Road, which is the dividing line between Detroit and the northern suburbs.]

A rezoning by the Southfield City Council would have allowed Walmart to build a 130,124 square foot superstore where a closed Catholic church, St. Bede, has stood for five years.

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UAW’s Bob King: Expanding the Fight Against Michigan’s Anti-Worker Forces

By Bruce Vail

Several hundred labor activists gathered last week in Lansing, Mich., for a frigid but boisterous protest of Gov. Rick Snyder’s State of the State address. Their intention was not to disrupt the speech, but to remind Snyder that he has awakened a deep and abiding anger among the state’s labor leaders and their allies. Snyder can count on many more such reminders in the coming months, Michigan labor sources say, as unions carry out plans to reverse the anti-worker initiatives Snyder has sponsored in the last six weeks, and push back against the big business forces that stand behind him. Continue reading

For Unions, It Was a Very Bad Year

by Harold Meyerson

Harold Meyerson

Harold Meyerson

American labor can begin the new year with thanks that 2012 is over. Not that the unions didn’t win some big victories in 2012. Their political programs in key swing states played a major role in President Obama’s re-election, both by turning out minority voters in record numbers in Ohio, Nevada, and Florida and by winning Obama a higher share of white, working-class voters in the industrial Midwest than he won in other regions. Their efforts also helped liberal Democrats hold key Senate seats in Ohio (Sherrod Brown) and Wisconsin (Tammy Baldwin), and pick up Massachusetts (Elizabeth Warren). In California, the nation’s mega-state, unions beat back a ballot measure designed to cripple their political programs by a decisive 12.5-percent margin, turning out so many voters that they also helped a key tax-hike measure pass at the polls and enabled the Democrats to win super-majorities in the state legislature.

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What’s Next for Michigan Unions?

By Bruce Vail

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed two anti-union bills into law on December 11, but unions may be able to use a loophole to buy time.   (Michigan Municipal League/Flickr/Creative Commons)

The fight over the anti-union law passed in Michigan on December 11 is far from over, according to both labor leaders and anti-union partisans. Labor organizations are working to both delay its effects and reverse its passage.

Bill Black, legislative director of the 40,000-member Michigan Teamsters Joint Council 43, tells Working In These Times that the law will be challenged by a number of unions in state courts and by legislators in next year’s session. The hurried manner in which the so-called “right-to-work” legislation was jammed through the state house is of dubious legality, he says.

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Right to Work for Less and the Destruction of Solidarity

by Joe Burns

Joe Burns

Joe Burns

To some the passage of the right to work for less legislation in the union stronghold of Michigan signals the strength of labor’s enemies. Sure enough, the passage of the right to work for less bill in Michigan represents the power of money and influence. Even though they lost in the election, the right wing continues its relentless attack against what remains of the labor movement. But that is nothing new.

To others, the passage signals union weakness. Certainly this was the main message of the mainstream news, with NPR and the New York Times running pieces discussing how the passage demonstrated union weakness. Again, that is too obvious to be our takeaway. With lockouts at record levels and employer-provoked strikes successfully garnering concessions, that we are getting our asses kicked should be readily apparent.

No, the main lesson we should take from the Michigan defeat is how completely and utterly messed up labor’s current strategies are and have been for decades. It should be a wakeup call for the labor movement that no business as usual will be tolerated and an opportunity to question the underlying premises of modern trade unionism.

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“Right to Work” : A Body Blow, Not a Death Blow

by Street Heat

The signing of “right to work for less” in Michigan is another stark reminder to us all how deep the crisis of labor is. As if we needed another. The fact that the supporters of “right to work” could garner enough votes to pass such a bill in Michigan underscores the determination of our enemies and the extent to which the decline of labor density has weakened labor’s ability to fend off attacks, even in our strongholds.

Right to work will not kill the labor movement in Michigan. If enacted, it will however weaken it substantially. This makes keeping up pressure in the streets, courts and all other points possible to defeat its implementation is essential. There is also still time to mitigate and undo the damage done through a variety of legal and legislative strategies. While the fight is far from ending in Michigan, we must look soberly at our priorities as a movement.

Going forward with the effort to beat back and repeal “right to work” is both necessary and makes sense. The same can be said for the other states who have recently passed or partially passed attacks on the labor movement. In many cases these states will see many of the Republicans who snuck into office in 2010 under false pretenses kicked to the curb in 2014. The energy created by the movements against the attacks on labor and working people represents a movement that has awoken from it’s slumber and this new energy will lead to our taking the offensive both politically and in organizing if our leaderships take advantage of it.

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