Democracy died in Michigan


Tweet from Representative Barb Byrum:
“What we have today is a declaration of war. War on unions.” Rep Stanley #NoRTWMi

“Well I’m not sure exactly what happened to pressure Snyder’s hand into strong-arming right to steal legislation in Lansing yesterday. The word is that he was under threat of primary and he was promised support by DeVos, Norquist, inc., and he folded like a crack house mattress.” –

The drama that unfolded yesterday as Michigan protesters were arrested, maced, locked out, and ignored brought back for me many of the same feelings of frustration and rage that dominated my life in early 2011. The process was a sick thing to watch even from afar, but I thought that the least I could do was to share tweets and blog on the matter. Hopefully I am returning a favor to some Michigan residents who did the same for Wisconsinites.

I focus in this post on worker rights, but to be clear, Michigan’s Republican legislators are delivering deadly blows to the rights of workers AND women AND they are kicking their most vulnerable poor citizens with a 60 month lifetime cash assistance limit that has zero exceptions.

Zero exceptions.

As Ron French of Michigan’s Bridge Magazine notes:
“Time limits always have existed for cash assistance, but there were exemptions, for example, for families living in areas of high unemployment and families in which the only able-bodied adult was a care giver for a seriously disabled spouse or child.”

Right to Work (for less) Legislation
Governor Snyder yesterday brought two “right to work” bills to Michigan’s legislature for votes without public hearings while at least 2,000 protesters converged on the Capitol in Lansing. The bills, which exclude fire and police workers, were put in front of the House and Senate and passed on party lines but they must sit for 5 days before either house may vote on them again. The bills would halt any Michigan company from signing labor agreements that require mandatory dues payment by employees in union workplaces. Snyder signaled he would approve R.T.W. legislation earlier this week.

If you have about 3 minutes to watch a video, I would ask you to watch this one. This is Rep. Brandon Dillon (D-Grand Rapids) who delivers a speech both fiery and informative. You can hear occasional yells from protesters leaking into the audio of the legislative chamber.

Shock and Awe

At about 12:30 p.m. Thursday December 6, State Police would let no more people into the Michigan Capitol – neither staff nor top union leaders. At one point a crowd of protesters tried to rush the Senate floor and they were maced by troopers.

“..protesters were trying to push their way into the Senate chamber and laid down in a common walk way. They were asked to move and did not, so two troopers responded with CS gas, or mace..” Eight of those protesters were arrested.

One tweeter said that when the Capitol doors were locked, supposedly because of density and fire safety concerns, there were 500 people crowding outside hoping to get in. Local tweeter @ThomasMorgan took several pictures to show just how not crowded the Capitol building actually was.

Michigan Dems. filed a hasty lawsuit to open the building, a court order to open the doors was issued by Judge Joyce Drananchuck, and that order was initially ignored. Then Dems walked off the legislature floor in protest and, it would seem to me that some legislators did make it outside, and some were blocked. As MLive reports:
“When the doors didn’t open, state Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit, yelled at the House Sergeant to arrest her because they would not let her leave.”

(Needs to be said or somebody will assume I was in Michigan) I was observing all of these activities through twitter and from the comfort of my Madison, WI home. Here are a few social media dispatches from those moments:

2:09PM Central Time

2:13PM Central Time
Overheard just now: state police officer says, “We’re just not letting any of the union guys in.”

3:15PM Central Time

3:24PM Central Time

At 3:42PM twitter reports came that the doors of the Capitol building were opened and those locked outside streamed in to fill the rotunda with cheering.

Back to the Legislation
Democrats scolded their GOP opposition for adding an appropriation to bill HB 4054. Michigan’s state constitution does not allow voters to repeal a bill through ballot referendum if that law includes an appropriation of money.

From Lansing State Journal:
Sen. Hoon-Yung Hopgood, D-Taylor, said an appropriation was also added to SB 116. “It becomes obvious: What we’re doing is an end-run around the Constitution,” Hopgood said. “Why are we putting in this appropriation to prevent the right of the people to referendum? … We’re shutting them out, just like we’ve shut them out in discussing this bill.”

Dems and protesters were also enraged that no public committee hearings on the bills took place. Apparently this is no big deal to the MI GOP. I assume this will be taken to court.

From Detroit News:
In a meeting with reporters, House Speaker Jase Bolger, R-Marshall, downplayed questions about the lack of a public hearing on the legislation.

“This issue has been discussed in this session for almost two years now, and it’s been discussed in Michigan for decades,” he said.”

The Koch-funded group Americans for Prosperity put out a hyperbolic statement which read,
“Michigan passage of right-to-work legislation will be the shot heard around the world for workplace freedom.”

Perhaps AFP is associated with “Michigan Freedom Fund”? Protesters “tore down a banner of Michigan Freedom Fund, a group that aired statewide radio and TV ads this week seeking passage of the bill.” according to Detroit News.

President Obama released a statement of opposition to the Michigan legislation, which I learned on twitter was read on the floor of the MI state senate:

“President Obama has long opposed so-called ‘right to work’ laws and he continues to oppose them now,” said White House spokesperson Matt Lehrich. “The President believes our economy is stronger when workers get good wages and good benefits, and he opposes attempts to roll back their rights. Michigan – and its workers’ role in the revival of the US automobile industry – is a prime example of how unions have helped build a strong middle class and a strong American economy.”

This isn’t the first time the president has had to weigh into the state politics surrounding collective bargaining and labor law. He also spoke out against efforts by Gov. Scott Walker (R) to take away collective bargaining rights in Wisconsin.”

Wisconsin and Michigan and All readers: as we know these statements may touch the heart, and they allow the President to later say he did something, but the truth is that they carry zero effective power at the state level.

According to one MI Capitol reporter, Snyder’s “right to work” bills had been gathering dust since Jan and Feb. 2011 as Snyder said he didn’t want to take up the bills because they were too “divisive”. Bloggers such as Blogging for Michigan note that Snyder had been saying that right to work legislation was off of his agenda for the last 3 years.

Another Protester Pizza Connection

Tweeters – especially #WIunion tweeters – sent out the call to feed the protesters entered their Michigan Capitol last night and stayed to raise their voices.

MI Anti-Abortion Bills
Not many people are talking about this co-development in the Michigan legislature.
In June ACLU described Michigan’s trio of anti-choice bills, HB 5711, HB 5712, HB 5713. Readers may remember that back in June that 2 female Michigan legislators were banned from speaking on the floor of the MI House because they used the words “vagina” and “vasectomy”.

From Laura Bassett at HuffPo:
“The state Senate passed three bills on Thursday [Senate Bills 612, 613 and 614] that would ban abortion coverage in state-based health insurance exchanges and all private insurance plans, and another bill that would allow employers and medical professionals to refuse to cover or provide health treatment to which they morally object. State lawmakers are also expected to pass a so-called omnibus bill on Thursday that would impose prohibitive building regulations on abortion clinics and ban the use of telemedicine to prescribe abortion medication.”

Continue to
Michigan Abortion Legislation Package Moves Forward
to get more info on possible regulation of MI abortion clinics as surgical centers, legislationg to allow medical professionals to “conscientiously object” to providing or paying for abortion and contraception, and legislation that ends telemedicine abortions in MI.

Hashtags to follow on MI labor:

More reading:
A map from the construction union Liuna (now somewhat dated) which shows the impact of Right to Work for Less legislation on each state:

Right-to-work bills pass in Lansing
By Karen Bouffard and Chad Livengood Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Koch Brothers’ Americans for Prosperity are leading the charge for Snyder’s ‘right-to-work’ bill – Detroit Free Press

Kochs, DeVos buy right to lower wages by $1,500 in Mich. – Teamster Nation

Right-to-work’ debate intensifies — Battle Creek Enquirer
12:25 AM, Dec 6

According to Detroit News, these MI GOP members broke ranks to vote against R.T.W. legislation:
Rep. Pat Somerville of New Boston
Rep. Ken Goike of Ray Township
Rep. Anthony Forlini of Harrison Township
Rep. Ken Horn of Frankenmuth
Rep. Dale Zorn of Ida
Rep. Ed McBroom of Vulcan
Sen. Tom Casperson of Escanaba
Sen. Mike Green of Mayville
Sen. Mike Nofs of Jackson
Sen. Tory Rocca of Sterling Heights