So today is the day the peoples' representatives in Lansing will vote to make Michigan a Right To Work state, or as one union wag put it, a right to work for less state. He may have a point. Research on right to work, while mixed on the effect it has on creating jobs and improving the economy, does agree on one consistent outcome: wages go down in right to work states.
Now, those of you who were paying attention in Civics class the day they talked about how citizens in a democratic society elect representatives who reflect and support their priorities might wonder why the good citizens of Michigan have elected a group of people determined to make them poorer.
And to you we would say silly, silly persons, have you not been paying attention lately? You still think Congress is a deliberative body, right? You probably thought The West Wing was a reality show. Allow us to purchase a clue for you, Bucko. Elections are no longer about the will of the people, haven't been for a good bit now. They're about the will of the money, specifically in this case Koch brothers' money, and more locally Devos money (that's Mister Amway to you Bub). That's why the republicans are going to push this through with no public hearings, no debate and some legislative sleight of hand that makes the law referendum proof so actual voters can't change it later. Welcome to the new Gilded Age, now get back to work at wages 380 time less than the boss makes.
All of this is presided over by our "tough nerd" governor whose motto is Relentless Positive Action. And what has been the result of this relentless positive action in the two years Snyder has been commuting from his home in Ann Arbor to Lansing because who cares about the price of gas when you're that rich? The poverty rate has risen from 13.5% to 16.8%; we have the ninth largest homeless population of all 50 states and DC; our infant mortality rate is almost 9% higher than the rest of the country; and the unemployment rate is 1.5% higher than the national average, so even if you are working, now you can look forward to less take home pay!
In Snyder's defense, he originally said he didn't want to deal with this right to work stuff because it would be so divisive, then someone said yes you do and he said yes I do because he's a principled leader like a fish is an astronaut.
Today a lot of voters are going to show up in Lansing to say to the people they elected this isn't what we elected you for and those people are going to say why do you think that matters? Michigan will then become a right to work state which won't be the end of it because the one thing democracy still has going for it is that it's all process, which means it's never done. Today the oligarchy wins, but history tells us that the general direction of a democracy over time is one that improves the lives of regular folk.
That's good news bad news though because as democracy lurches around on a general path of progress people suffer, specifically in Michigan's case because this fight is going to take all the energy, attention and will away from real problems in the state like poverty, homelessness and hunger. OK, you're right, our current legislature never cared about those problems anyway, being far more concerned with making blastocysts tax deductible. Our bad.
The good news is this may cause unions to return to their roots as social movements which is what gave them such influence in the first place and got us to the point of having things like minimum wages, 40 hour weeks and workplace safety regulations for all workers, union and non-union alike.
It is ironic though that in a state where manufacturing unions were born one of the greatest corporate overlords of all, Henry Ford, realized that while profit was the ultimate goal, you still had to pay your workers enough to buy your product if you wanted to stay in business over the long term. The Koch's and the Devos' surely get the first part of Ford's lesson, but that part about the interconnectedness of the economy...uh...not so much.