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Some thoughts on Michigan’s ‘right to work’ law

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder

In a recent diary, Michelle discusses Michigan’s new right to work (RTW) law. She paints a picture of police and firefighters unions as awakening to a new workers’ consciousness.

In Michigan, police and firefighters unions have been left out of the anti-union legislation just signed by Gov. Rick Snyder.

Michelle quotes a professor,

Historically, right-wing lawmakers have cozied up to the fraternalistic firefighter and police unions, which have in turn supported conservative law-and-order policies. Police and firefighters are “often disconnected from the rest of the municipal workforce, and they are very occupation specific,” notes Marick Masters, director of the Labor@Wayne program at Wayne State University in Michigan. ”And so the sense of community of interest that they would have with the broader labor movement is not really as intense.”

Another simpler, and more accurate way of putting it would be, traditionally  police and firefighters are Republicans, and endorse Republicans. Suddenly, though, it’s dawned on police and firefighters that dumping on teachers and others not them could negatively impact themselves, too, and so they are starting to rethink their allegiances. But that doesn’t mean they really care about what happens to teachers and others they don’t especially identify with.

Some people have been saying recently that the deal in Michigan is unique in that it leaves out police and firefighters from RTW, but the recent Wisconsin law limiting the rights of public sector unions “mostly left alone police officers and firefighters, and the unions representing Milwaukee cops and Milwaukee firefighters renewed their support for [Scott Walker] Monday,” according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s Patrick Marley on April 2. That was when Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was facing a recall measure triggered after he passed historic anti-union legislation.

Harold Meyerson of  The American Prospect correctly points out that “Snyder, like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, has created a police-and-firefighter carve out. The reason is purely political—in Michigan, as in Wisconsin, the police and firefighter unions often support Republicans for state and local office, and Republicans want to make sure that they’ll continue to do so with undiminished clout.”

Photo in the public domain.

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