For two years, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder insisted that trying to make Michigan a right-to-work state was “not on my agenda.” Last week, he suddenly switched positions and announced that not only did he favor right-to-work, but that the time to do it is now, during a lame-duck session of the Legislature.
Before anyone could raise an eyebrow, a bill to that effect roared through both legislative houses in hours, without any of the normal hearings or debate. Even those who support outlawing union shops in Michigan should recognize that the way the bill passed was appalling, shameful, and undemocratic. “We have had more deliberate hearings on something like a commemorative license plate,” one state senator complained.
The Republican legislative majority that is pushing right-to-work clearly has no interest in democracy. GOP lawmakers added a small appropriation to the bill, which will prevent citizens from trying to get a referendum on the law.
The haste with which the bill passed was no accident. Although Republicans will still have a majority in both legislative houses next year, they lost five House seats in the November election. Because some GOP lawmakers oppose right-to-work, party leaders calculated the bill could not pass in the next Legislature.
Making Michigan a right-to-work state is a bad idea. There is no compelling evidence that such states attract more jobs, although it is clear that wages in such states are lower.
Governor Snyder offered no credible reason for his change of heart. But he was known to be upset that Michigan unions attempted to persuade voters to adopt a state constitutional amendment last month that would have protected collective bargaining rights. That effort failed, but some business lobbies got a scare, and now want revenge.
The governor’s switch on this issue is, in itself, a betrayal of the voters. He was elected two years ago as a moderate, and has said repeatedly he has no interest in ideological warfare.
But by supporting this legislation, he has allied himself with the state’s most polarizing right-wing elements, just weeks after the state gave landslide victories to President Obama and pro-labor U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow.
Regardless of what his real feelings on right-to-work may be, Governor Snyder should veto this bill because of the outrageously undemocratic way in which it was passed. Sometimes the hallmark of a leader is the ability to admit a mistake.