Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Sad Day in Michigan

Courtesy Michigan House Democrats

“We must guard against being fooled by false slogans like ‘right to work.’ It is a law to rob us of our civil and job rights.” ~ Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Some are saying the largest nonviolent protest in decades took place yesterday at my State Capitol Building.

I say “my” because contrary to the views of state politicians and their minions in blue, it’s the people’s house, not Governor Rick Snyder’s or the GOP’s or the Koch brothers’ or Dick Devos’s.

Courtesy Lansing City Pulse
It was confirmed that 12,500 people converged on the Capitol yesterday to protest Republican lawmakers’ sleazy effort to make Michigan – birthplace of the United Auto Workers – the 24th right-to-work state in the country.

My friend and neighbor Karen Dickey Cowles, who participated, wrote later in Facebook, “I've lived in this area for almost 45 years and I've never seen that many people or that much positive energy at a rally.” A number of downtown streets were closed and at least two school districts (Taylor and Warren Consolidated Schools) cancelled classes because so many of their teachers were in Lansing.

Of course it didn’t do any good, at least in terms of swaying GOP politicians.

One particularly offensive twit, GOP Representative Dave Agema (R-Anus), took to his Facebook page to write, “I fell (sic) like I’m back in the military – I’m rather enjoying this. It brings back memories.”

Courtesy Sam Inglot/Lansing City Pulse
There was pepper spray (former Democratic congressman Mark Schauer was among those maced by police) and profanity. The Reverend Jesse Jackson made an appearance to prove that just because he’s 71 doesn't mean he won’t show up wherever there are TV cameras. There were practically more riot gear-wearing police on hand than there are needles on a Christmas tree. There was more of the now-usual disregard for legislative rules and process by myopic Republican lawmakers – many of whom don’t give a sh*t about what happens from this point on because they’re lame ducks whose “service” concludes in a few weeks. (“Service” in this instance means “screw the State of Michigan without remorse or lubricant.”)

And shortly after noon, the first RTW bill (covering public employees) passed by a vote of 58 to 51; the other bill (covering private sector workers) passed 58 to 52 at around 1:30. Both bills had already passed the Senate so they were sent to Governor Snyder, who signed them into law early last night.

I watched the rally via livestream (although the constant buffering was more than a little irritating). Protesters chanted, “Whose house? Our house!” and “Hey hey, ho ho! Right-to-work has got to go!” and “What’s disgusting? Union busting!” The crowd cheered when a large, pro-RTW tent sponsored by Americans for Prosperity, the Koch brothers’ Tea Party group, either collapsed or was taken down a few hours into the event. (Anita, who attended and tried to read a sign on the side of the tent but was blocked by two cigarette-smoking right-wingers, heard that the tent was probably there in order to distort the PA system.)

Courtesy @Jeffrae
I also tuned in to some of the legislative proceedings thanks to Michigan Government Television (MGTV). I caught passionate, heartfelt remarks by State Representative Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit). I heard a bunch of right-wing crap from State Representative Marty Knollenberg (R-Troy) – whose speaking style is akin to that of a groggy Elmer Fudd with marbles in his mouth – and was moved by the remarks of my own representative, Barb Byrum (D-Onondaga), who said, “This is not the Michigan that I grew up in and this is not the Michigan that I want written in history.”

I listened to an unlikable State Representative Mike Shirkey (R-Clark Lake) try to justify lawmakers' actions by referencing Proposal 2, the collective bargaining ballot proposal that was turned down by voters last month. WTF, dude?

I was glad that State Representative Mark Meadows (D-East Lansing) called the GOP’s moves “cowardly” and pointed out that right-to-work states have less medical coverage, lower pensions and a lower standard of living, and could relate to State Representative Kate Segal (D-Battle Creek), the House Minority Floor Leader, who said yesterday’s legislative process, sadly, is nothing like what her six-year-old daughter learned. (I’ve had similar conversations with my kids.)

Did you know that Republicans tried to make the bills repeal-proof? They attached a $1 million appropriation to the legislation; under state law, spending bills can’t be placed on the ballot for people to vote on. RTW opponents are scrambling to determine how, if at all, they can reverse yesterday’s legislative travesty.

As I wrote in a blog post last Friday, it sure is a sad time for proponents of sound public policy.

And now we come to the “Cool Links” portion of today’s blog post. For a good description of how Snyder is doing the Koch brothers’ bidding on this issue, click on this link.

To read about how state Republicans are marching to the beat of the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), click here.

And make sure to check out this paper, entitled, “What ‘Right to Work’ Would Mean for Michigan,” by Dr. Roland Zullo, a research scientist at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Labor and Industrial Relations. Professor Zullo makes some great points, including:

Unionized workers earn wages that are ten to forty percent higher than their nonunion counterparts. The positive differential for other forms of compensation, such as health care insurance and pensions, is even greater.

In states that have passed RTW legislation, the wages and benefits of all workers, union and non-union, are lower than national averages.

In every capitalist economy, the standards for economic, political and social equity are owed in part to a vibrant, independent union movement.

Too bad Republican politicians prefer ALEC publications.

Courtesy Rogue Planet

Courtesy Michigan Senate Democrats

Courtesy Josh Barnes

Courtesy Gretchen Whitmer

Courtesy Graham Davis

Courtesy Michigan Senate Democrats

Courtesy Mike Mulholland

Courtesy Lansing State Journal

Courtesy Detroit News

Courtesy Amy Morris

Courtesy Karen Dickey Cowles

Sources: Huffington Post,, PR Watch, We Are Michigan,


  1. A sad day indeed Patrick. The demonstration - was it a wake? Or an awakening?

  2. Good question, Mark. I of course hope it was the latter...although I've seen lots of awakenings in recent years. It's time to actually get out of bed.

  3. Very nicely written. So, will the next group of legislators overturn/repeal/undo this mess? Can they?