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  • Writer's pictureKaren Young

Michigan shows how it's done

Updated: Feb 26

Welcome to Winning Wednesday!


In the Midwest, after the 2010 elections, people suffered a sudden, vicious, and overwhelming attack on the values they hold most dear.  It’s still triggering even to think about how they ran us over like a Mack truck back then, and how powerless people felt to stop it.  Thank God, things have started to turn around. 


A particularly sweet change of fortune happened in the great state of Michigan this week.  They became the first state in 60 years to overturn a right-to-work law!  John Nichols in the Nation had the story.


“This moment has been decades in the making,” declared Michigan AFL-CIO President Ron Bieber. “By standing up and taking their power back, at the ballot box and in the workplace, workers have made it clear Michigan is and always will be the beating heart of the modern American labor movement.”


SEIU tweeted, “After a decade of organizing and voting for change, Michigan workers just officially won the repeal of the state’s so-called ‘Right to Work’ law. This is the power we have when we unite at work, in the streets, and at the ballot box!”  (My emphasis.)


The end of right-to-work in Michigan is part of a sweeping pro-labor agenda.


How did they do it?


This timeline doesn’t begin to cover all the blood, sweat and tears that went into this over many years, of course.  Many people committed to this struggle over the long term – and that’s what it takes.  But to sum it up:


2012 – GOP Gov. Rick Snyder helps enact a right-to-work law in Michigan, the birthplace of the UAW and the American union movement. This came shortly after a similar law was enacted in Indiana, and shortly before one was enacted in Wisconsin.


2012 - The Fight for $15 began when two hundred fast-food workers walked off the job to demand $15/hr and union rights in New York City.  Within a few years, this movement of young workers exploded, re-energizing union organizing and helping to move public opinion on unions.


Mid-2010s -  The GOP moved their plan across the country like General Sherman's march to the sea.  By then, 27 states, a majority, had “right to work” laws on the books.


2017 –New Hampshire blocked a “right to work” law in 2017 and in 2021.


2018 - Missouri voters (4 years after Michael Brown's death) rejected a “right to work” referendum by a 67-33 margin.  The movement is stalling out.


2018 – Michigan voters decided — by 61% — to amend their State Constitution and create the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission (MICRC).


2018 – Gretchen Whitmer, who had served in the state legislature from 2001-2015, the last few years as Democratic leader in the Senate, was elected Governor.  She replaced the term-limited and by now, deeply unpopular Rick Snyder (can you say “Flint water crisis”?), breaking the GOP trifecta.


2021 – The new Redistricting Commission held public hearings across the state to discuss what the legislative maps should look like.  By the way, a majority of members are independent, not Democrats or Republicans.


2022 – The Commission’s maps are used for the first time during the 2022 election.


2022 - Whitmer is re-elected Governor, and Democrats take back the State Legislature from the GOP.  They control all the levers of state govt for the first time in 40 years.


Let’s all raise a glass to MICHIGAN!

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