Martin Bashir | December 11, 2012
>>> the fight over unions and so-called right to work legislation in michigan is ultimately about one thing, republicans wanting to turn a blue state red. angry protests have accompanied the decision by the states legislature to send two bills which would weaken unions to the desk of the state's governor. that man, rick snyder, has promised to sign them perhaps by tomorrow. ironically in a building named after mitt's father, george romney , who according to buzz feed opposed right to work laws, unlike his son. but governor snyder tells an dia mitchell moments ago that this is about helping workers.
>> i think it's a good thing. it's about being pro-worker. it's about giving freedom of choice to workers and secondly as was mentioned in the earlier report, it's about economic development .
>> that's what we describe as a crack burger. the president stated on monday what actually will happen.
>> these so-called right to work laws, they don't have to do with economics. they have everything to do with politics. what the they're really talking about is giving you the right to work for less money.
>> joining us now is julian epstein, a democratic strategist, and dr. james peterson , an associate professor at lehigh university and a contributor to thegrio.com. welcome to you both. julian , you spent a considerable amount of time toiling in michigan politics. you know the phrase right to work is about as good a euphemism as fair and balanced . this has nothing to do whatsoever with right to work, does it?
>> no. this is a gratuitous attack on the labor movement , and the labor movement was in many ways born in michigan and detroit, and it's a curious thing because the argument on the right to work side is that it's going to help grow the economy as they argue it has done in some southern states . the truth of the matter is it's hard -- the data kind of speaks both ways. southern states generally tend to have higher unemployment and lower wages. they also tend to be areas that have higher growth rates. so the data is kind of inconsistent, but a couple economists have looked at that at hofstra university . if you look at what the ceos of the major big three auto companies are saying, they don't want any part of this right now. so this is an attack on worker rights at the time when the fundamental problem this country faces right now, there is one economic problem that everything we're talking about whether it's the budget or anything else is all rooted in, and that is the fact that wages in this country have been stagnant for 10 to 12 years. rather than trying to lift workers up, this is another effort by the republican party to go right between the eyes of working people.
>> ant right at the moment when corporate profitts are at astronomical levels.
>> and michigan is a very inhospitable state for chief executives. this governor is going to face a very, very, very tough re-election.
>> isn't the giveaway here that the governor wanted to push this through during a lame duck session to seek some kind of revenge as julian just hinted at the president who won re-election?
>> well, that is one giveaway. julian is right here. the right to work is actually a movement that ultimately will diminish workers' rights. when you look at the right to work laws and the states they're in, they're in some of the most economically challenged states in the united states . i think what's really sad here though, martin, when you think about the history of michigan and dream hampton and michael moore and others have said this already, that the sort of post-industrial movement, the sort of sapping of the middle class started in michigan in places like flint, michigan , and detroit, michigan . it's really tragic that if this is some kind of political gamesmanship to try to institute this right to work piece here in michigan , that it's sad. but i do think there are more than just political outcomes for the governor and for whatever wealthy cronies he has in his back pocket. at the end of the day when you have these right to work laws in place, the economic gap, the concentration of wealth in the top 2%, ceo payouts and ceo salaries can be higher when workers' wages are lower.
>> julian , by our count seven 69 ten poorest states in the u.s. are right to work states.
>> nine of the ten richest are not.
>> that's true.
>> why do they support this legislation claiming that it helps workers? it does the exact opposite.
>> if you look at the right to work states, they generally tend to have lower wages, generally tend to have higher unemployment. the argument on the other side was economic growth , they tend to be growing faster.
>> so that's the rick perry argument.
>> that's the other side of the argument. the economic data is very, very, very clear. there is absolutely no impact. most of the major -- if you ask any one of the big three auto companies, they will tell you they want no part of this. the other thing about what's going on there, i don't think even though this is going to be a defeat for labor, i don't think it's as big a defeat for two reasons. one is labor is in the life blood in michigan politics and the culture of the michigan economy. i don't think you will find many free riders. if you give union workers the right to opt out of the union, i don't think many will opt out. secondly, this is the kind of energization that the labor movement really needs in michigan . i think, one, you will see this get back on the ballot. there is a provision under the michigan constitution that allows this to get back on the ballot in the next election. i think you will see that. i think, as i said, you will see the governor have a difficult time with re-election, and i think this is going to be the kick in pants that labor needs in michigan . at the end of the day this could be something that could be a blessing in disguise for them.
>> julian epstein, dr. james peterson ,