In a massive show of power last week, Big Labor submitted about 684,000 signatures – twice more than needed—several weeks ahead of the deadline to put the "Protect Our Jobs (and Screw You Michigan Taxpayers)" initiative on the November ballot. The move came as no surprise given the $18 million war chest that Michigan unions have managed to acquire with the help of their national and local comrades.
As I have written before, the bill is a radical – and risky—effort to reclaim the ground that unions have lost in Wisconsin and Indiana. If it succeeds, union benefits and bargaining privileges will become permanently enshrined in the Michigan constitution. And even the modest health care givebacks that public employees were required to accept to restore a semblance of structural balance to the budget will be reinstated. What's more, Michigan will be permanently banned from ever becoming a Right to Work state. It will also hand labor a field-tested strategy to enact pro-union laws in states that allow legislative action through referendum, even, perhaps, putting some Right to Work states in the non-Right to Work column.
However, if it fails, unions as we know them will be finished in this country. It'll create momentum for Michigan to become a Right to Work state, which will open the floodgates elswehere in the Midwest and the country. So the stakes couldn't be higher.
The Daily Kos has dubbed Michigan unions as "rock stars" for so expeditiously taking the first step of putting the state's economy on a permanent path to ruin.
But Joe Lehman of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy has the better take:
This ballot measure is a radical constitutional amendment that makes government-sector unions more powerful than the Legislature. If it passes, unions will set public policy in secret negotiations with their government employers. Lawmakers won't be able to override anything they decide.
Unions have a better shot at getting their way in Michigan than Wisconsin for a whole host of reasons, the chief one being, as I noted last week that:
The initiative is very, very cleverly worded and to see the radical – even diabolical—intent behind its innocuous veneer would require an extremely informed electorate. For example, the initiative opens by declaring that:
The people shall have the rights to organize together to form, join or assist labor organizations, and to bargain collectively with a public or private employer through an exclusive representative of the employees' choosing, to the fullest extent not preempted by the laws of the United States.
Who could be against the "rights" of "the people" to organize? And who would be against giving all "the people" – in the public and private sector – the same "rights"? That would be downright un-American – tantamount to smearing the American flag with apple pie and then setting it on fire.
The new front in the labor wars has now officially opened, ladies and gentlemen, and it will be a more fierce than Wisconsin.