Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

How Will GOP Handle Election Letdown? Michigan Union Fight Offers Clues

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

How Will GOP Handle Election Letdown? Michigan Union Fight Offers Clues

Article excerpt

Growing tensions between the moderate and conservative wings of the Republican Party after the disappointment of Tuesday's elections are already playing out in Michigan, as it considers becoming the latest Midwestern state to take up anti-union legislation.

One bright spot for Republicans Tuesday was the rejection by Michigan voters of a union-backed proposal to amend the state constitution to protect collective-bargaining rights. Now, some Republican lawmakers see that defeat as an opportunity to introduce so-called right to work legislation in the upcoming session that adjourns Dec. 20.

Right-to-work legislation targets companies and unions that allow unions to deduct monthly dues from all employees even if they aren't union members. Republicans say right-to-work legislation creates a friendly business environment, which creates more jobs. Democrats see the legislation as an attempt to break unions.

The potential for a right-ro-work bill in Michigan is significant because the state as the center of the US auto industry is in many ways the Mecca of the American labor movement. But following Tuesday's elections, in which many pundits say Republicans underperformed nationally by veering too far right, the debate in Michigan also offers a glimpse at how the tug-of-war within the GOP might play out in one key state.

Union issues have already roiled the Midwest. A 2011 bill to ban collective bargaining for public unions led to protests in Wisconsin and a failed bid to recall the governor earlier this year. A similar bill passed in Ohio was reversed in a voter referendum. Meanwhile, Indiana and Iowa are already among the 23 right-to-work states nationwide though Democrats in Indiana originally fled the Statehouse in a failed attempt to stop the bill.

It is not certain if the bill will surface in the near future in Michigan. Gov. Rick Snyder (R), a moderate, is on record saying the law is too divisive, while hard-liners like Senate Finance Committee Chairman Jack Brandenburg told the Detroit News Thursday the bill should get pushed through sooner rather than later.

Weve been very patient with the unions. …

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