NOW with Alex Wagner | December 07, 2012
>>> protests erupted inside the michigan state capitol after the republican controlled state house passed legislation that would weaken organized labor . at one point police put the capitol on lockdown barring people from entering. the president of the united auto workers union reportedly one of those locked out. the legislation known as right to work would make it illegal to require most michigan workers to pay union dues as part of a condition of employment. if it passes and republican governor rick snider signs it as promised, michigan a state synonymous with organized labor would become the 24th state in the country to enact a right to work law. democrats assert the republicans were trying to ram through the bill because the republican's legislative party will shrink come january. the governor said the urgency stemmed from indiana 's decision of right to work law this year.
>> they've had an increase in business activity, businesses that want to grow and expand in indiana . it's about more and better jobs.
>> we had word the president is going to be making a trip to michigan . this is an issue that has dominated the national stage in terms of the fairness argument but the future of organized labor and manufacturing in this country. rick snider making the case it's better for state and state economies to have these right to work laws but if you look at per capita income in 2010 states with the highest per capita income only one in 20 were a right to work state.
>> it's totally ideological, it has nothing to do with the economy. it's really interesting that the president just won that state by about ten points and this is the first thing rick snider.
>> why should i be required to join a union? it's always strange you would get a job and be required to have your paycheck lowered by union dues and not make that choice for yourself.
>> you get the benefits of their collective bargaining. if they negotiate great working and health benefits you get them.
>> and if you look at the overall union membership which has declined rapidly n 1983 , 20.1%. in 2011 it's 11.8%. you chart that against the decline of middle-class wages, the noshlg times did a great series of articles. look at compensation from 1947 until 1979 , compensation increased 100% in hourly waged, increased 72% and then stagnated and that has tracked in parallel with decline in union membership .
>> assault on union.
>> everything we believe in this country, your decision to decide how your money is spent and paycheck distributed.
>> but the thing about that argument, mine there's a whole huge complex package of rules around labor, a lot of which, many of which hamper your ability as a worker to participate in a general strike , that's illegal. under these series of bargains they got made in the middle of the country. i mean the argument against right to work is utterly appealing. it is also -- it is synonymous with saying we don't want unions in these work places because --
>> that's the way it's worked.
>> it is impossible to have unions in that.
>> if you can't force workers to join them.
>> no. in this country -- if you can't force workers to join them, outlawed a whole range of tools that workers in europe and other places use to organize, right. there are two sides of the act and all these pieces of legislation.
>> i don't know. if i think if your argument is good enough your union is strong and make a better deal for your workers you're going to join people to join.
>> it's always better to free ride .
>> we've also expanded the ability of businesses, of corporations to inva against having union organizing.
>> and intimidate.
>> dessertify unions and intimidate people. what capital wants is the cheapest possible work it can buy.
>> look at walmart. a great case. walmart does not pay its workers a living wage , not the minimum, $25,000 a year for going by federal poverty measurements and if they did they would lift hundreds of workers --
>> retail wages used to support a lifestyle.
>> you can understand where governor snyder is coming from. sees businesses locating in indiana because of this.
>> michigan has a amazing job creation and business relocation record in the last ten years.
>> if you just look at how right to work has served workers and states economies, it hasn't served them well.
>> michael steele back on --
>> i'm not sure --
>> that's a little unfair. the main reason mississippi is poor is not right to work laws.
>> there's mitigating factors.
>> it's interesting. one of the things that strike, the argument itself is a heated argument, but it's also the fact that republicans are doing this now which is when they still have a bigger majority in the state house , i want to play a little bit of time -- of sound from the vp for the uaw who says to do this -- not sound, going to read his words, to do this now is poor timing. labor and management have been cooperating closely in the automobile industry and have really helped the industry recover. michigan is on the rebound and right to work is going to be very divisive. this will add to the divisiveness in the state. that is something that the governor said we can't do this now, it's going to be too divisive and all of a sudden it's getting pushed through.
>> the unions played a role in the auto restructure, a positive role. they made many concessions. it's just a ridiculously political thing to do. that's all it is.
>> one of the ways in which the republicans are fully exploiting 2010 . democrats made a serious calculation not seriously organizing in '10, a lot of gerrymandering and republicans come in and he want to take these rust belt states way from democrats and one thing is to defend the only tenty i that has enough money to compete with republican money that is unions.
>> and organization too.
>> and organization. foot soldiers. those are where the white working-class voters that still vote for democrats exist and unions are a big part of that.
>> an ongoing debate, one that ben is not satisfied with.
>> somebody has to take the other side of this argument.
>> you're just devil's advocating yourself through this hour.
>> i'm a free market guy.
>> we have to go to break. ben smith is leaving us from buzz feed.com. thank you for joining us today my friend stew thanks for having me.
>> after the break, what the frack. the united states has the potential to surpass saudi arabia by oil production in 2020 but as oil companies find new ways to strike black gold they may create small earthquakes along the way. energy potential with chris hayes next on "now." the weather outside is frightful but the