Morning Joe | December 12, 2012
>> while republican governors try to tear the very fabric of the working man's life.
>> they seem to be doing that in some states .
>> not allowing union bosses to compel them to write checks from their paychecks. where they don't belong.
>> front page of all the papers. controversial right-to-work measures will soon be the law of the land in michigan . republican governor rick snider signed the law despite wide protests at the capitol. the law will make it illegal for a union employee to pay union dues as a condition of their employment.
>> let's explain that. just for half a second. then we'll go on. right to work, what does it mean? people ask me, what does it mean? it means unions can force somebody to pay them if they want to get a job in the state of michigan .
>> well, what it means is, if you get a job, the union extracts money from your paycheck for the dues for union dues .
>> well, yeah.
>> you've got no choice. oh, you want to work here? well, you've got to pay us.
>> what if i don't want to pay you? what if i don't want to support the candidates you support? what if they're the antithesis of my values? too bad. and so i've never understood this.
>> governor snider says it was the unions who started the fight in the first place. by trying to add collective bargaining rights in the state's constitution.
>> i asked them not to go forward. and the reasons i said is is you're going to start a very divisive discussion regarding collective bargaining first but it also will get into right to work. it continued to escalate and was becoming very divisive. the way i viewed it as, it's on the table, it's a hot issue. let's show leadership. so i stepped up to say when i review it, it's a good thing. it's about being pro-worker and economic development . we'll get more and better jobs coming to michigan because we're going to be more competitive.
>> oh. michigan has the fifth highest --
>> it's going to be on today.
>> -- fifth highest percentage of unionized workers. more than 17%. and it's hardly alone in passing right-to-work laws. 23 other states have already done the same. there were heated moments at yesterday's right-to-work rally in lansing, michigan . youtube video posted by a brightbart contributor shows demonstrators tearing down the tent belonging to americans for prosperity , the conservative advocacy group with ties to the koch brothers. according to "politico," the group says it is sharing the video to show, quote, the true nature of unions. the group has already sent out a fund-raiser e-mail including this video. also yesterday a contributor for fox news says he was attacked by union supporters who were unhappy about the new legislation.
>> [ bleep ].
>> you just assaulted me.
>> that's terrible. steven crowder of fox news says he was trying to prevent protesters from tearing down the americans for prosperity tent as people were trapped inside. he posted photos on twitter of himself claiming he suffered a chipped tooth and a small cut to his forehead.
>> there are a lot of videos coming out. that was pretty rough stuff.
>> yeah, that was rough.
>> really rough stuff.
>> the interesting thing about governor snyder , he early on in his tenure, said he didn't want to go down this route. he watched what happened in wisconsin. it's interesting to watch his transformati transformation. i guess he explained it through the fact that he's for economic development and choice. and then to watch the videos, and i think we'll see, unfortunately, more of this going forward.
>> why is that? i don't understand the video, the punching.
>> i'm not justifying it. when people feel threatened economically, i think people --
>> no, that doesn't justify people punching people because they feel threatened economically.
>> joe , i'm not trying to justify it. i'm saying unfortunately --
>> you know, conservatives go around punching people like that, it would have been the lead of any newscast last night. every newscast in america .
>> that's inexcusable. i don't disagree with that.
>> it is inexcusable. i just wonder about the double standard . tearing down tents, punching people. really, i don't understand. mike, can you explain this stuff for me? i believe i've said it on the show time and time again, unions, after world war ii , helped create strong, vibrant middle class .
>> we talked to steve rattner about jobs coming back to america at 14, 15, $16 an hour. we don't celebrate that. i'm glad they're here instead of china, but heck. if we had an economy that would support $30-an-hour jobs, i'd be for that. better than a ceo. you know, destroying a company and then getting a $200 million payout. but that said, what is wrong with a state allowing an american to work where he or she wants to work without having to be compelled to pay union dues ?
>> well, this state, michigan , was such a part of the core of unionism in this country, the foundation of the united automobile workers which at one point had over 1 million workers in its enrollment is now down to roughly maybe 350,000 workers. the united automobile workers , everybody can own a car in america . the history of unionism has been inextricably linked to the growth of the middle class , as you know, over the last 60 years of american history . the right-to-work legislation that has passed now in 24 states , i don't think you can dem demonstrably prove that it leads to higher wages, that it leads to marginally --
>> but what's wrong with giving people the freedom to work where they want to work?
>> there's nothing wrong with it.
>> if i want to work in a shop and not pay a union i disagree with, shouldn't that be my right?
>> it is your right, joe .
>> no, it's not my right if it's not a right-to-work state.
>> i understand that. i understand that. if it's not a right-to-work state. but the problem is that the unions, having felt threatened over the last 20 or 25 years, have taken a stand against right-to-work legislation because why? they lose union dues . they have used the union dues over the course of 40 or 50 years. you know why. one of the big instances of use of union dues --
>> to elect democrats.
>> yes. so they're confronted by a republican governor, senate and house.
>> i need somebody to explain to me because i know there are a lot of hardworking union people out there that might think i'm anti- union . i'm not. as i said, unions built the middle class of america . and if i had to choose between a ceo making lots of money and the money getting spread around in a free market system , i'll take the one getting spread around. anti- union , is somebody anti- union for saying harold ford , i'll ask you, i should be able to work where i want to work and pay union dues if i want to pay union dues . is that a demonstrably anti- union position or supporting freedom?
>> i think it's supporting freedom. here's another side. unions have played a big role of people having their rights protected, as you well know, to ensure that safety standards are --
>> okay, but that's not answering my question, harold .
>> union dues are used for that purpose also.
>> but you can't take that money from me if i don't want to give it to you.
>> this is all about -- but this is about political purposes. political purposes. so there's a broad set of reasons that these dollars are used for.
>> you're still taking it from my pocket and i don't want to give it.
>> we're making your workplace better. we're ensuring that you are not only protected --
>> can i decide whether my workplace is better if i choose to go to a workplace?
>> well, you choose, joe , after being granted the right, not to throw in union dues to the larger employee contribution, would you choose not to take the pay raise that the union negotiates for you three years from now?
>> that's the argument against it. a free rider problem so that you benefit from the fight that the union made.
>> it's almost like the health care debate with emergency rooms and so forth.
>> in other words, you didn't put any money in, you're getting the higher wage and the benefits the guys who paid the money are receiving, you're still getting them, but you didn't pay for them. it's a free rider system.
>> i mean, there are closed shops, there are open shops, right? that decision can be made there, correct?
>> yeah. i think.
>> if i'm a union guy or woman, i'd say, okay, well, let's negotiate for union members.
>> and union members will be put on a different -- put in a different category, and we'll give them training, higher skills, and they get the pay raise and the nonunion people don't get the pay raise.
>> i think your question's legitimate if -- especially if the unions aren't being effective in making the pay raises good, in making the workplace better. and i think that's a very good question today in terms of how well people are being paid.
>> and i think, by the way, unions pay -- play an absolutely critical role, especially in an era where the rich are getting richer. the poor are getting poorer. ceo salaries have exploded over the past 25 years in a grotesque manner.
>> so how well are they doing?
>> unfortunately, though, union leverage is being stripped away by globalization, by an i.t. revolution, by outsourcing that certainly does --
>> but you asked the fundamental question earlier, and mike, one of you may have asked it, right-to-work states have, because governor snyder argued that this is an economic development and job development question, in right-to-work states , are there higher salaries, higher wages, more health care , a higher percentage of people living in the middle class who work in these companies.
>> dude, dude, we're talking about michigan .
>> well, no.
>> we're talking about michigan . you want to see how these laws worked? look at michigan . look at --
>> but there were a number of forces at work.
>> look at rhode island . look where unions have been the strongest. look at the shuttered factories. i'm not being anti- union here. i'm pro- union . i want factories in connecticut , in rhode island , in massachusetts, across new england reopened. but the jobs from overseas, they're not going there. they're not going there because of work force rules that i think even trump told me were outdated and outmoded.
>> is our education system outdated?
>> our union advocacy, is that outdated, how they go about fighting for it? i don't know. that question was put on the table. whether factories are shut, that means jobs have left. if you look at wages enjoyed by workers in right-to-work states , i think it should be put on the table. where do they fare? i have not done the analysis so it's hard to say.
>> it's a question, though, willie, whether you want the job or not.
>> i asked bob riley , i've said this 1,000 times, it seems extraordinarily important if you're a union member in the northeast, and like me, you want your factories running again. i asked bob riley , i don't understand, why did mercedes go to tuscaloosa county , alabama, instead of filling up the factories in connecticut ? 15 minutes away from yale. or in rhode island . 20 minutes away from brown. i mean, right by some of the most highly trained, brilliant minds in the world. that's easy. the work force rules are so insane there, there's no way that mercedes or bmw or airbus would ever dream of going to those states . do you want the jobs or do you not want the jobs?
>> and that plays out all over the south in harold 's home state of tennessee , auto plant comes back, you get a bunch of jobs but at a very low wage. so the question is do you want to lower ourselves to the global standard of wages so that you have many more jobs --
>> that's a better option.
>> that question has to be answered -- in union states .
>> that's the question that has to be answered, what willie put out. i think there are other factors.
>> rhetoric inside the capitol building was also heated. before the bill passed, democratic state representative douglas geist painted the repercussions in stark terms.
>> we're going to pass something that will undo 100 years of labor relations . and there will be blood. there will be repercussions. we will relive the battle of the overpass .
>> there will be blood.
>> michigan house democrats twitter account even tweeted the comments later in the day. let me be clear, i do not want to see history repeated. my caucus and i stand against the use of violence and do not condone its use. we condemn violence, the destruction of property and all other illegal activity in the strongest possible terms.
>> which happened outside the capitol after he made those statements.
>> destruction of property. violence.
>> of this legislation and opponents to stand by me in my call for nonviolence.
>> union leaders talking about civil war .
>> there will be -- okay.
>> not helping the cause.
>> it's a really fascinating and potentially disturbing discussion we've been asking.
>> the union strength and union membership in this country over the last 30 years is a big story .
>> you know what, though? i mean, it's the same thing. we're talking about unions. the unions have the same problems republicans have. they're living in a different era. there needs to be a new generation of union leadership that understands the realities that say you know what we're going to do? we don't have to choose between high paying jobs and low paying jobs. let's chart a middle course. let's become partners with these companies that are coming over here. let's give -- that's how you do it. you give them offers they can't refuse. but the republican party is stuck in 1984 , and unions are stuck in 1964 . both institutions need to wake up and realize it's the 21st century . you know what? punching people out that you disagree with.
>> for mowing them down.
>> that only --
>> it's criminal.
>> -- only makes your cause more loathed. unions have to reform themselves.
>> i would agree.
>> quick answer to your question, harold , and according to "the wall street journal ," the average salary for employee s in right-to-work states , a couple years ago the last time they measured it, $373 per week, 10% less than in states that did not have right-to-work legislation. but these states vary in living conditions . i don't know that it means much.
>> mika, for your health book, your eating book, we talked about that -- talking about states and we talk about new england who's been gutted, mike. you've seen it over the course of the past 25 years. but i was stunned. you know, the unhealthiest states in america on this survey, all in the deep south . all the healthiest states . all in new england . vermont, new hampshire, connecticut , massachusetts.
>> except for my house.
>> except for your house.
>> major cities that have people moving around, too, as well.
>>> coming up, michigan governor rick snyder will join us and "new york times" columnist thomas friedman , richard wolffe and hollywood producer harvey weinstein .
>>> up next, mike allen is here with us in new york. with the top stories in the "politico playbook."
>>> but first, is it phil cabins? i like that.
>> bill karins. he is the best with a check on the forecast. bill.
>> good wednesday morning, everyone. not a lot of big weather headlines out there going to cause you problems today. just a few interesting side notes. let's get to the new england area first. a little colder this morning than yesterday. so definitely warmer clothes and the winter gear, especially north of i-95. it's going to be a beautiful winter afternoon, though. temperatures are going to be in the mid to upper 40s in the big cities . upper 30s in the burbs with no snow on the ground, pretty nice for this time of year. d.c., what a nice period to get all your errands done for the holidays. temperatures into the low 50s by the weekend. no complaints anywhere. northeast or mid-atlantic the next five days. the southeast, a little different story. we got some rain this morning. i- 95 south of south carolina into charleston, all the way through savannah, you will go into some rain along with our friends in southern portions of georgia. and that's where the wet weather will be today. rainy, cloudy and cool along the southeast coast. maybe a few thunderstorms in florida. the middle of the country looking a lot better and starting to warm up after your big snowy past weekend. anyone going to the west coast may be surprised for a little bit of rain in even los angeles today. it will be very light. but even by their standards, anything is a big deal . we leave you with a beautiful clear, crisp, cool shot of the christmas tree in rockefeller plaza . have a great wednesday morning, everyone. you're watching " morning joe " brewed by starbucks. of washington