The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Ballot Proposals:
No Good Choices

Oct 15, 2012

There’s been a noticeable trend this election year, in Michigan and several other states, toward more ballot proposals or constitutional amendments in the states. Working people and other activists, frustrated by the actions of elected representatives, have tried to protect their interests through the ballot box.

But it’s not the way workers can expect to defend their interests.

Usually, workers have no good choices in voting on a proposal, in voting either yes OR no. Case in point: Michigan’s Proposal 3, mandating that 25% of the state’s energy consumption come from renewable sources by 2025. Everyone would like to reduce pollution; but nothing in this proposal guarantees any significant pollution reductions any time soon. (Notice it says ‘renewable,’ not ‘clean.’) And there’s nothing in the proposal that truly prohibits rate increases. Workers face the choice of paying with their health or paying with their pocketbooks. Or maybe both.

And then there’s Proposal 6, mandating the approval by a majority of voters before an international bridge or tunnel gets built. This is nothing more than a squabble between two groups of capitalists: Matty Moroun, current owner of the Ambassador Bridge, who wants to maintain his monopoly on bridge crossings in Detroit, and the auto bosses, who want the state to build them a new bridge out of Moroun’s control. Either way, the people will pay.

Even when ordinary people push to get proposals on the ballot, they often learn that there’s no point. Large numbers worked to get Proposal 1 on the ballot: this proposal suspended an Emergency Manager law passed by the legislature and the governor in 2011, pending the vote in November. A No vote would overturn that law, which allows the governor to appoint an EM in any city, county or school district, with the power to suspend labor contracts and gut services.

Lots of workers have an interest in getting rid of this law. And lots of bosses have an interest in passing it, so they can get their hands on all that public money now being “wasted” on workers and public services. Not surprisingly, LOTS of money has been spent trying to convince people to vote for a bill that would be used to attack them.

And on top of that, the leaders of the legislature have openly said it doesn’t matter how people vote – if the Proposal gets turned down, they’ll pass it in another form anyway!

Clearly, this so-called “democracy” is not for us. Workers have a lot of potential power to impose democracy and defend their own interests – but it’s not in the ballot box.