If Scott Walker’s big 2011 victory over organized labor in Wisconsin was the opening salvo of what I call capitalism’s “War of Attrition” (chip away at the working class until there is total supplication at the altar of commerce), then Michigan’s just passed right-to-work law is the napalm, the atomic bomb of the war. And Rick Snyder is capitalism’s Harry Truman, using a totally unnecessary weapon to do the bidding of money and industry. So it goes.
For the uninitiated, the Right-To-Work law (great messaging) allows private and most public sector union workers to voluntarily join unions; which, it is argued by those on the left, would make it more difficult for unions to make their voice heard. Ironic, is it not, that this unfolds only two years after the Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. FEC decision allowed corporations to spend unlimited amounts of cash on elections. While corporations and wealthy individuals can spend willy-nilly, unions—which could never really compete with corporate money anyway—are being starved of any possible advantage.
There is a certain melancholia to the news out of Michigan, as if the bell has finally been tolled—but it’s not totally unexpected.
The greed lying at the dark, rotting heart of big business and banking is quite simply too powerful to resist. And it really illustrates the cold, harsh strategy of the Republican party: a total perversion of the states’ rights philosophy that was so central to the writing of the US Constitution, the American Civil War and the push back against Civil Rights laws. In this states’ rights variant, if social democracy cannot be fully dismantled at the federal level, it will be undone at last at the state level.
Certain of the Founding Fathers, most notably Thomas Jefferson, may have dreamed of a decentralized United States, with each state doing what was in it’s best interest—but never could they have imagined that corporations and the massively wealthy would have so completely and cynically subverted that vision. It required a great and powerful propaganda, and it was fomented by a number of individuals and organizations across the country.
But special recognition must be paid to two parties in particular: the Koch brothers’s Americans for Prosperity and ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council). Apart from the GOP itself, no two other corporate entities have so systematically used the states’ rights argument as an economic trojan horse for the American oligarchy’s plans for the country.
But don’t put stock in my interpretation of events—look to what Americans for Prosperity had to say of the Michigan victory. “This is really a message to every other state that is a closed union shop, that if you do it here you can do it everywhere else,” said Scott Hagerstrom, Michigan director of Americans for Prosperity.
The idea that the law will undercut union support of Democrats is irrelevant. It’s about being able to offer a counter-point to the ruthless brand of American capitalism that the Koch brothers and ALEC support. Granted, there is an inherent truth to the idea that men and women should be able to decide for themselves whether to join private or public unions; not be forced into it. It is fundamentally a question of liberty, as any libertarian will remind critics. But the decision should be made by the people—in this case, Michigan citizens; not by a GOP governor lobbied heavily by Dick DeVos and his front group Michigan Freedom Fund, or Americans for Prosperity and ALEC. DeVos, of course, spent $41 million on his 2006 Michigan gubernatorial, only to lose. One can only imagine the additional corporate goodies he’d have put in the bills had he been elected.
In the final analysis, if the right-to-work laws were really about the people as Gov. Snyder contends, then the bills should have been on the ballot.