Joe Lapointe has worked as a sports reporter with the New York Times and a segment producer for "Countdown With Keith Olbermann'' on Current TV
The sinister nature of the Republican Party was self-exposed again on Thursday in Michigan when Governor Rick Snyder and his right-wing allies pulled a dirty, sneaky trick against labor unions.
Without committee hearings, without public discussion, without any fair warning, the lame-duck session of the Legislature rammed through in one day a “right-to-work” bill that will seriously wound the unions.
If the bill passes on Tuesday and the Governor signs it – both events likely – employees of union shops will no longer have to pay dues or join unions. This will crush the power of organized labor, which grew in strength during bloody battles with management goons in the 1930s.
Before long, it will erode the rights of workers to fair disciplinary hearings and give their bosses a whip hand to hire and fire at will. When contracts expire, management will drive down wages, health benefits and safety conditions.
Snyder, in his first and perhaps last term, is a craven hypocrite who previously said such union-busting was not on his agenda. You have to wonder: Who is pulling this man’s strings? What money power lurks behind him to prop him up for the next election in 2014?
He commands a State Police force that has already pepper-sprayed demonstrators at the capitol building in Lansing. What are they capable of doing on Tuesday, when the wrath of the workers in full voice will be heard?
Oh, yes, there are bad unions, and bad union leaders, even in Michigan. For decades, Walter Reuther of the United Auto Workers and Jimmy Hoffa of the Teamsters Union were the good angel and the bad angel of Michigan’s labor movement.
Hoffa represented criminality and the worst that can happen when unscrupulous people gain too much power. Reuther represented a higher ideal of a clean organization that elevated collective bargaining to a firmly established principle.
Eventually, the good angels won and Michigan – back when it was prosperous – enjoyed relatively high-minded labor relations. Even strikes stayed peaceful and usually ended with handshakes, broad smiles and enough to go around.
Now, after a convincing re-election of a Democratic President, Barack Obama, and the beginnings of an economic recovery in the Great Lakes state, Snyder and his Republican henchmen are undermining one of the foundations of the Democratic Party in a state that championed the labor movement.
Obama, not very confrontational in his first term, nevertheless saved the auto industry from bankruptcy in his first year after the Bush financial crisis. Michigan rewarded Obama last month with a majority of its votes.
The President just happens to be making a speech Monday at a plant in Redford, just outside Detroit. Perhaps he could include a few fighting words about a duplicitous governor and his sleazy cronies who made a mockery of democracy. Even better: He could direct his motorcade to Lansing and stand alongside those who elected him.
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