Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., lamented Tuesday the passage of a right-to-work law by the Michigan legislature, calling it bad for business-labor relations and saying that the measure was designed to weaken unions and, by extension, Democrats.
Asked if the move by the Republican-led state legislature was politically motivated Stabenow said, “Oh sure because it undercuts support for Democrats.”
The controversial measure would prevent agreements where employees are required to pay union dues.
“Right now under collective bargaining agreements, whether you join the union or not, if you benefit from collective bargaining, you contribute,” Stabenow said. “This would say you could benefit, but you wouldn’t have to contribute, so this is all about undercutting labor [and] the resources that they have,” which typically flow to Democrats.
“This is the most blatant partisan power grab that we have seen in Michigan in a long time,” Stabenow continued.
The Michigan Democrat said that under the terms of the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which loosened rules on political spending, the law could weaken workers politically, as well.
“In a world where the Supreme Court has said that corporations can give unlimited secret money, and then on the other side you have workers who contribute through their unions ... this is another power grab by the Republican party,” she said.
Michigan’s other Democratic senator, Carl Levin, also expressed disappointment about the legislature’s move and in Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, who intends to sign the bill into law.
“I have previously criticized Gov. Snyder for his sudden, last-minute change of position on so-called ‘right-to-work’ legislation,” Levin said in a statement. “His switch directly contradicts his promise to avoid divisive issues and his promise to bring Michiganians together.
“The governor’s reversal and his misleading language aren’t about workers,” Levin continued. “It’s about politics. It is deeply unfortunate that the governor and other Republicans in Lansing have put politics ahead of the collective bargaining rights of Michigan workers.”
Both Stabenow and Levin were critical of the use of a parliamentary maneuver that prevents a vote by the public on the bill.
“The legislature uses a parliamentary gimmick to prevent the public from being able to vote up or down on this provision,” Levin said earlier. “It is a terrible” measure, he said.
Both also complained that the bill would set back business-labor relations after both sectors worked together to strengthen the auto industry.
“It’s incredibly divisive,” Stabenow said. “Today in Michigan, business and labor work extremely well together. When the auto industry had problems the [United Auto Workers union] stepped in. They cut starting wages in half, they assumed responsibility for retiree health care and were a huge part of making sure we had an American automobile industry, very positive.
“And now unfortunately the governor and the legislature are taking us back decades with this,” Stabenow continued. “I find it very sad when we are trying to move forward.”
Levin said, “If you reintroduce an era of labor-management confrontation after a decade of moving closer together and working together, to reintroduce a conflict does not make Michigan a more competitive state or more attractive for investments.”
Their comments came after President Barack Obama decried the bill on Monday, in a speech at Daimler’s Detroit Diesel in Redford, Mich.