Republicans have found a way to remind Americans that they're still in charge in many states. Michigan is the latest to approve “right to work” legislation that prevents unions from requiring dues from nonunion employees who still receive benefits even though they are not members. It was uncertain whether or not the 2 bills would become law, having been controversial since the GOP-controlled legislature pushed them through in a party line vote earlier this week. Tonight however, Gov. Rick Snyder (R) made news by doing what many call an attack on labor: he signed the legislation.
Michigan director, Scott Hagerstrom of Americans For Prosperity, the nonprofit founded by David Koch, lauded the legislation as “the shot heard round the world for workplace freedom.” The sentiment is shared by many activists on the right who believe this recent move will start a nationwide legislative trend. There is a strong possibility however, that this belief may be fatefully misguided.
After Gov. Scott Walker (R) was successful in passing similar legislation teacher protests sprang up in Wisconsin. As they grew in size, these demonstrations inspired the Occupy Movement. By bringing the issue of wealth inequality into the national discourse, the protesters played an undeniable role in the GOP's defeat in the 2012 election which was seen by many political scientists as a realignment. Republicans lost ground in all three national races, and only kept the House due to gerrymandering; they did not win the majority of the votes cast. A clear message was sent to Washington this November: the far right's ideas do not jive with the American people, and the more they are ignored the weaker the GOP will become. This legislation does just that: it is in clear defiance of the November mandate.
There is already firm opposition from Democrats, union members, and activists on the left. Protests have erupted outside the Capitol nearly 30,000 strong. Unions all around the country are showing their support with numerous petitions. If this bill really is “the shot heard round the world” it has not been in the sense Hagerstrom predicted. Rather, it has inspired solidarity nationwide. There is a possibility that this may prove to be the spark that revitalizes the Occupy Movement or gives rise to a new, similar movement.
There are further reaching risks for conservatives as well, if this legislation starts a national trend. A major factor that helped give rise to Occupy was the impact of the recessed economy on middle class families. Millions of Americans were unemployed, wages were stagnant, and the wealth gap was enormous. This “right to work” legislation may not help the economy as Republicans have claimed. The is a direct correlation between worker friendly states and standard of living. Ass the latter declines it will only bring more unrest and more anger. The "blame Obama" tactic has failed in the past. This recent legislation was a risky move by the GOP, and it may help Democrats nationwide in 2014.