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Tim Skubick
Tim Skubick

Relentless Positive Action vs. Right to Work

January 20, 2012

We have never seen a clash of letters such as this. The governor’s RPA (Relentless Positive Action) is on a collision course with House GOP efforts on RTW (Right to Work). It has all the makings of a certified train wreck, as Mr. Snyder sees very little positive action in his party’s relentless pursuit of this goal.

Recall that candidate and now-governor Rick Snyder has warned that opening up this can of worms will pit business against organized labor, and the resulting battle won’t do much to advance his Michigan reinvention agenda. In fact, it could halt it just as he is gaining some momentum.

Yet, despite all his public protestations thinly disguised in his standard line about “this not being on his agenda,” the House GOP guys, led by the speaker himself, slog forward into a “conversation” about cutting into the heart and soul of the labor movement.

And as the House Democratic leader noted the other day, he’s ready to have that conversation. Oh yeah. Rep. Rick Hammel hopes it will drive those 400,000 Democrats who didn’t vote for Virg Bernero for governor to get off their duffs and vote against the GOP “anti-union” agenda this November.

So why are some Republicans taking the risk and ignoring their governor’s pleas to leave this alone? Because they can’t help it. Now that they have hefty majorities in both the House and Senate, some believe it will help to cement their own re-elections with conservative voters back home. Plus they’ve been itching for years to do it.

But here’s the rub. Even if the House manages to pass this thing, Senate GOP leader Randy Richardville sends unmistakable signals that he wants no part of this puppy, and he asserts there aren’t the votes in his caucus to do it.

That poses a huge dilemma for House Speaker Jase Bolger and minions. Do they want to force their members to walk the plank when the bill has little chance of passing, knowing that the Democrats will use that vote to unseat those folks later this year?

That conundrum has given rise to a new wrinkle, i.e. the possibility of a statewide petition drive to take it out of the legislative arena and let the voters decide all this.

Businesses have the resources and could gather the signatures, but Rob Fowler, who runs the Small Business Association of Michigan, calls that strategy a “disaster.” He knows it will drive more Democrats to the polls.

Rep. Mike Shirkey (R-Clark Lake) is the most vocal cheerleader for RTW. He’s not ready to chuck a legislative battle, but he confides he has thought about the petition drive, too.

Turns out that neighboring Indiana may have a huge influence on what transpires here. After flirting with running for president and telling his followers he wanted nothing to do with that issue, Gov. Mitch Daniels has pulled a Mitt Romney and changed his position. And most believe that before March, the Indiana legislature will pass Right to Work, which could, in turn, add more fuel to those fires back here.

The Michigan Chamber of Commerce is monitoring all this but has no formal position on the issue. Hard to believe, but true. CEO Rick Studley is aware of the impending dust-up with labor, but the chamber has never backed away from that in the past, and one gets the sense that if Indiana goes first, Mr. Studley and friends won’t be far behind.

So grab a seat to see who wins this battle of the letters. The smart money is going with RPA.

Tim Skubick is Michigan’s Senior Capitol correspondent and has anchored the weekly public TV series Off the Record since 1972. He also covers the Capitol and politics for WLNS-TV6 in Lansing.

Tim Skubick Extra Extra…
(A weekly bonus only for Dome readers)

Missed Opportunity
Close but no cigar. No, scratch that. Not even close.

Gov. Rick Snyder had a rare opportunity to lower the anxiety level in the City of Detroit concerning an Emergency Manager…and he whiffed during his State of the State Address.

Everybody knows, including the governor, that in many segments of that community the angst is palpable. Residents don’t want the state to send in somebody who will fire their elected officials and run the city like a dictator. Whether that dictator is benevolent or not, many don’t want it, and they want the governor to keep his GOP nose out it.

Mr. Snyder, being who he is, is not about to ignore the challenge, but he had a chance, with a statewide TV audience tuned in, to look directly into the camera and talk to the residents of Detroit. He could have said something like:

“I know you are worried about someone coming in to run your city, and I’m worried, too. I don’t want to appoint an EM and I fully understand why you don’t want me to do it. And I won’t if at all humanly possible. That’s why I urge you to tell your mayor and City Council they need to make some tough decisions. They didn’t create this mess, but they have the power, right here and right now, to fix it once and for all. And I promise you tonight I will do everything I can to help you save your city — which is our city, too. There is too much at risk for all of us if we fail.”

He didn’t even come close. Sure, he talked about supporting the city, but the support he is offering, many don’t want.

So you are left to ponder why he squandered the opportunity. Wasn’t there somebody in the inner circle with enough political savvy to help this non-career politician get this one right?

Actually, he is smart enough to have figured it out on his own. But he didn’t.

Points off.

January 19, 2012 · Filed under Tim Skubick Tags: , , , ,

36 responses so far ↓

  • 1 harvey bronstein // Jan 20, 2012 at 9:52 am

    I give great credit to Gov. Snyder and now Sen. Richardville for understanding the foolishness of trying to pass so-called ‘right-to-work” legislation. It ultimately doesn’t work. Our unions need to cooperate with management as we now see with the UAW. The old days were bad, with unions disregard for business success, both those days are gone.

  • 2 Norm Hughes // Jan 20, 2012 at 11:37 am

    Tim, Some people bet on Sham, the unbeatable horse that Secretariat embarrassed.
    More than 70% of the people in Michigan favor the worker’s right to labor freedom and worker choice. The May, 2011 Epic/MRI poll stated that 78% of Republicans support Freedom To Work. There will be relentless positive action to convince the Senate Leader and Governor that the opportunity for labor freedom and worker choice is now. It is the morally right and politically smart thing to do.

  • 3 Steve Harry // Jan 20, 2012 at 11:42 am

    I’ve got that Right-to-Work petition all composed, approved by the Board of State Canvassers, and ready to go. All we need is $2 million to put it on the ballot.

  • 4 David Waymire // Jan 20, 2012 at 2:39 pm

    Of the 12 states with the highest unemployment rates today, eight are right to work states, including Nevada, the state with the highest unemployment rate in the nation.
    Of the 16 states that have seen the smallest increase in their per capita incomes, 12 are right to work states.
    I guess we just don’t have enough unemployment or low enough incomes in this state already, that’s why we need right to work…
    Or, as it should be called, “Right to Freeload.” Wonder if GM would have agreed to the significant pay raises and bonuses for hourly workers the union negotiated this year if the union wasn’t there? All I know is that I didn’t hear any right to freeload advocates suggesting that the workers who got those union-won benefits saying they should hand them back to the company.

    Of the 1

  • 5 harvey bronstein // Jan 20, 2012 at 4:39 pm

    “Freedom to Work”? Oh Frank Luntz is at work here. Let’s csall the Estate Tax, the “Death Tax” and keep rewording until everyone is on the “Right” side of all issues.

  • 6 Tim Bos // Jan 26, 2012 at 4:40 pm

    I hope that Michigan gives all of their workers the right to work- not just all the Federal workers here that currently enjoy it.

    And, I want a neat little twist added to the new law. I want it to include a mandate that requires all voters to join the Republican Party- after all, it’s only fair. That way, Democrats will clearly understand how a worker feels when he is forced to join a union, simply because he wants a job.

    I have had many non-union jobs, and negotiated my pay and benefits. I have had a good life, worked my butt off, and enjoyed being in the top 10% of wage earners nationally. And for those who want a union to do their bidding- that’s fine with me. But don’t saddle me with what is good enough for you, and together we’ll both be the better for it.

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