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Labor's Edge: Views from the California Labor Movement

The Shadowy Trail from the Koch Brothers to 'Right to Work' for Less in Michigan

by Kenneth Quinnell, AFL-CIO

Michigan is poised to become the latest state to pass "right to work" for less legislation, a mislabeled policy that is designed to weaken the rights and wages of working families. As is often the case in recent years, extreme anti-worker legislation, like the law in Michigan, can be traced back to Americans for Prosperity (AFP) and the group's founders Charles and David Koch, the billionaire brothers who fund a host of extreme right-wing organizations.

The Koch Brothers' fingerprints are all over "right to work" in Michigan. AFP's Foundation produced a 15-page booklet: Unions: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: How Forced Unionization Has Harmed Workers and Michigan. The group recruited hundreds of protesters to counter working family-led rallies at the Capitol and promoted counter-protests on its website. 

Another significant in-state supporter of the "right to work" push is the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, which champions "right to work" for Michigan frequently on its website.  Mackinac has received nearly $70,000 from the Koch Brothers.

While there don't appear to be any direct contributions from the Koch Brothers to Gov. Rick Snyder (R), there is a significant chance that Koch money helped him get elected.  In 2010, when Snyder was elected, the Koch Brothers gave more than $1 million to the Republican Governors Association, which gave a direct contribution to Snyder and gave more than $5 million to the Michigan Republican Party, whose top priority in 2010 had to be Snyder.  The party gave Snyder a direction contribution as well.

Americans for Prosperity doesn't even try to hide its agenda, which is to weaken workers' rights:

Michigan passage of "right to work" legislation will be the shot heard around the world for workplace freedom. A victory over forced unionization in a union stronghold like Michigan would be an unprecedented win on par with Wisconsin that would pave the way for "right to work" in states across our nation.

It's hard to know how much influence the Koch Brothers had on Snyder and Republicans in the legislature, but it is notable that Snyder was on record repeatedly denying he would pursue "right to work" until this week, when he abruptly changed course. Earlier this year, Snyder said "right to work" was a "very divisive issue." Another significant influence is the DeVos family, owners of the Amway empire, and contributors to Snyder and any number of other right-wing causes.

The trail of funding behind "right to work" isn't the only shadowy part of the story, as the tactics used to push the legislation through are about as undemocratic and dishonest as is possible.  Nearly every claim Snyder and his allies has made about "right to work" laws is demonstrably false.  Legislative leaders rammed the bill through with no public input, no committee hearings, no floor debate and no real time for the public to review the proposed law.  They also attached an appropriation to the bill, which means that, under Michigan law, the public cannot reverse the action through referendum.

Posted on 12/09/2012Permalink

More posts by Kenneth Quinnell

Reader Discussion

The right-wing, while spending millions on “losing the elections,” seems to have bought the MI “right to work for less law” and the fiscal cliff so they got something for all that $$$.  Can’t Michiganers challenge the ram-through process as an unconstitutional abrogation of their right to representation and democratic process?

at 2:35 pm on Sat, Dec 15, 2012Posted by Jessea Greenman

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