The Michigan House and Senate passed Right to Work bills on Thursday. The bills were very quickly introduced and passed, but there was obviously a lot of work and planning behind the scenes to make it happen.
Right-to-work bills pass in Lansing
Pressure has been building for right to work for a while. Six years ago, it was only discussed in active conservative circles. In 2008, house dems held a vote to ambush Republicans. Republicans in safe districts voted for it, while the others voted against. Following the Republican sweep in 2010, activists pushed the issue within the Republican party, and support for Right to Work became the default GOP position.
Rick Snyder dodged the issue, saying it was "not on his agenda". I can't really blame him for not wanting a big Wisconsin-style fight disrupting his other priorities. But pressure continued to build and issue continued to be discussed, even as bills had not been introduced.
The key factor was likely Proposal 2, where the unions disastrously overreached in their attempt to hijack the Michigan Constitution. The Michigan Chamber of Commerce spent a lot of money defeating it. The key to passing Right to Work has never been the legislature, it has been whether the Chamber was willing to put up the money to defend it on the ballot. With the recent news that Dick DeVos and Ron Weiser, key GOP funders, were advocating for it, the answer now is yes.
The bill still has to be passed again, probably on Tuesday. Unions have been engaged in their usual tricks of being as obnoxious as possible, yelling, storming meetings, and threatening violence. Do they really think this works? Old habits are hard to break, I guess.
A handful of Republicans in each chamber defected.
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
Keep in mind that legislative leaders will often let members in tough districts defect when their votes are not needed. The six reps are all in union-heavy areas (Downriver, Macomb, Macomb, Saginaw, Monroe, UP). Horn is term-limited and likely running for state senate in 2014; the others were all elected to their second terms last month.
Casperson (UP) has a tough district and Green's (Bay, Huron, Lapeer) is somewhat tough, but he is also the leading gun rights advocate in the senate. Similar excuses don't hold for Rocca (Macomb) and especially Nofs (Calhoun), both of whom saw significant improvements to their districts. Rocca and Nofs both deserve to be primaried. Leon Drolet should run against Rocca. There isn't an obvious challenger for Nofs, but maybe Dick DeVos and Justin Amash could find someone.
Assuming the bill is finally passed, Governor Snyder has indicated he will sign it. Unions will file lawsuits, which are not likely to go anywhere. They will probably try to recall members of the legislature, and may succeed in a few cases, but not enough to change control in Lansing.
They will also put the issue on the ballot. The bills include appropriations to make them referendum-proof (though this will probably be challenged). The unions can and will put either an initiative or constitutional amendment on the ballot. The reason for avoiding a referendum is that a referendum would require voters to vote yes to affirm Right to Work, while an initiative would require voters to vote yes to block it. Undecided voters usually vote no, so that side has an advantage.
The battle is just beginning, but Michigan becoming a Right to Work state is finally in sight.