The Rachel Maddow Show | December 06, 2012
>>> there was a group of protesters who we are told by the state police rushed to police officers trying to get into this senate chamber. at that point, the police officers took out chemical spray, pepper spray , sprayed them, and eight people ended up, eight protesters ended up being arrested. and so now there are state police officers out in front of the state chambers, it's similar in front of the house chambers, as they begin to take up this bill.
>> that was what democracy looked like today in michigan where the state's republican majority began voting on a bill that will dramatically curb the -- hundreds of people flooded into the michigan state capitol where the house was scheduled to debate the bill. police locked down the lidding until a local court ordered they open the doors again. the scene in michigan today looked familiar. it looked like the scenes in indiana and in ohio and in wisconsin where those states voted to take away the rights of unions. in fact, it was exactly that kind of scene michigan governor rick snyder , a republican, had said he wanted to avoid. in february, governor snyder looked at those other midwestern states with republican governors and workers protesting in the state capital and decided he did not want that thing in michigan , not in his historically very strong union state. governor snyder said, "you look at now that they've had those things happen, do they have a productive environment to solve problems? not necessarily. they're still overcoming the divisiveness, the hard feelings from all of that." at the time reporters wanted to know whether rick snyder would support what is known as a right to work law. the idea of right to work is simple. under a right to work law, employees of a union shop don't have to pay union dues . the employees get the benefit of the union, the higher wages and better health care , all of that, but they do not have to pay for it. why pay money if you can have something for free? for unions, the results of this are close to catastrophic which is why republicans and big business love right to work laws. they are a way of destroying unions. the same heritage foundation that will be jim demint 's new home says union membership fell by 15% in states that passed right to work. union organizing fell by half, passing a right to work law stops unions and it stops organizing. on the labor left , the economic policy institute reports that wages fall by more than 3% after you institute right to work. and pensions take a hit, too. that's why unions call right to work the right to work for less. with governor snyder saying he wanted no part of a fight over right to work just a few months ago, the move to pass a bill in michigan was, well, kind of surprising. it appears to have started this year with a referendum campaign by union activists to protect union rights. against governor snyder 's wishes, they collected signatures and got a referendum on the ballot that would have made it impossible for the state to pass a right to work law that governor snyder said he opposed. now, or ever. that referendum failed. failed by 16 points. that was november. on tuesday, all of a sudden governor snyder said right to work was on his agenda. how come? quoting "the detroit free press," "there is a view unions must put something on the table if right to work is not to proceed after having gone ahead with a collective bargaining ballot proposal against his urging in last month's election." so this is payback? bargaining? this morning governor snyder held a press conference with republican lawmakers to announce new right to work legislation for the current lame duck session . the governor said he was doing it for the good of michigan 's workers. and then the lawmakers explained that they had crafted the bill in such a way that michigan voters could not put it up for appeal by referendum the way they appealed governor snyder 's emergency manager law last month. so good, you can't actually get rid of it even if you want to, voters. republicans then rushed the new language into a vote at the statehouse where it passed by a largely partyline vote of 58-52. just before 5:00 p.m . local time . so depending on how you look at it, the entire legislative process today took about an hour and a half. this evening the republican-controlled senate also voted yes. house democrats are now trying to slow down final passage of the bill and the protesters will likely continue their protesting. both governor rick snyder saying he will sign a right to work bill if republicans want to take away strong unions in michigan . there may not be that much that can stop them. joining us now is rick pluta, capital bureau chief for michigan public radio network . mr. pluta, thank you for being here tonight.
>> my pleasure.
>> what changed that governor snyder said he was opposed to doing right to work in michigan , moved to on to the agenda and passed it so quickly?
>> well, certainly one of the things was what you outlined was that the unions pushed a very expansive union rights bargaining rights ballot proposal that also would have repealed or threatened a lot of laws that he and other republicans supported. but, yeah, and once it was over, you know, the governor said they'd overreached and really said that right to work might be kind of a comeuppance, regardless of what his wishes are. and he did hold it at arm's length for really a couple of years in order to focus on other things. he said now a lot of those other things have been taken care of and it was time. but there was a lot of push behind the scenes . a lot of big money put behind encouraging both state lawmakers and getting the public behind a right to work legislation, a right to work movement in the state capital . and also just unions and democrats were too slow to come across with some support on things that the governor wanted to do. you know, just to name one, a rewrite of the state's emergency manager law that was actually repealed by voters in a referendum which this bill won't be once it becomes law.
>> what is the response been from unions and democrats in michigan ? is there anything they think they can do?
>> well, i mean, it's -- this has taken on an area of inevitability. the house and senate approved bills today. the governor said he would sign them. there's no reason to believe that anything will change between now and next week when both the house and the senate will have to take final action on that legislation to get it to the governor. that does not mean, though, that unions and progressive groups won't be organizing actions and protests to try at the very least call attention to what's going on at the state capital of lansing. they're already planning to what's going to happen after right to work legislation is signed into law in michigan . you know, democrats and unions are talking about things like trying to re-call lawmakers, maybe even some ballot questions that this right to work law, if it does remain referendum-proof, still isn't necessarily immune to the ballot because the unions can go and try and initiate a voter-approved law on their own. a separate law that would basically supersede it. and they could even go back and try and maybe do a cleaner constitutional amendment that would just protect collective bargaining rights and not be as expansive as this last ballot -- a lot of people really saw as an overreach. something that was so sweeping that it just made voters too suspicious.
>> rick pluta, capital bureau chief. thank you for your underground reporting on this. we appreciate it.
>>> the thing about most doomsday plans, they have to do with what happens after doomsday. among the current republicans in congress, a doomsday plan means something way different from that. it would be funny if it were not, you know, about doomsday. stay tuned.