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Speaking in Detroit Monday afternoon, President Barack Obama strongly criticized the push by Michigan Republicans to pass an anti-union law during the lame duck session. In a speech largely focused on his proposal to tax income over $250,000 and making the case that "our economic success has never come from the top down, it comes from the middle out and the bottom up," Obama characterized the bill being rushed through the Michigan legislature as political and part of a race to the bottom:
And by the way, what we shouldn't do. I've just got to say this, what we shouldn't be doing is trying to take away your rights to bargain for better wages and working conditions. These so-called right to work laws, they don't have to do with economics, they have everything to do with politics. What they're really talking about is giving you the right to work for less money.
You only have to look to Michigan, where workers were instrumental in reviving the auto industry, to see how unions have helped build not just a stronger middle class but a stronger America. [...]
We don't want a race to the bottom. We want a race to the top. America's not going to compete based on low skill, low wage, no workers rights. That's not our competitive advantage. There's always going to be some other country that can treat its workers worse.
That appears to be just what Michigan Republicans do want, however. After hearing from his state's congressional Democrats, Gov. Rick Snyder once again insisted that the bill "is all about creating more and better jobs in Michigan." In fact, we know that freeloader laws lower wages by about $1,500 a year for the average worker—the "right to work for less money" that President Obama referred to.
Snyder could sign the bill, assuming it arrives on his desk, but make it possible for Michigan voters to later overturn it. Republicans have included an appropriation in the bill, protecting it from a referendum. But Rep. Gary Peters points out that Snyder could use a line-item veto on the appropriation, making it possible for the law to go to a ballot vote. If Michigan Republicans wanted democracy to triumph here, though, they wouldn't be rushing this bill through in the lame duck session knowing that they won't have the votes once January comes.