The Spark

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

Michigan Proposal 2:
Collective Bargaining Amendment

Oct 15, 2012

Proposal 2 in Michigan would change the state constitution to grant public and private employees the right to organize and bargain collectively through labor unions.

After the 2010 elections, Michigan’s state legislature started passing all sorts of laws attacking workers’ wages, pensions and benefits – especially those of public workers.

Unions pushed back, with a series of demonstrations. But then they turned to the electoral process. This was NOT the best way to go.

Michigan unions pushed to get this proposal on the ballot, to stop Michigan from becoming a “right-to-work” anti-union state. But what a stupid thing – to put on the statewide ballot a proposal asking all the population, all classes and income levels, permission for workers to unionize.

Workers didn’t wait for legal permission before they first started organizing; they broke laws and defied court injunctions and police in fighting to organize their unions. They forced the issue and forced companies and the government to recognize their unions.

Certainly, unionists and other workers who understand the advantages of unions will want to vote for a proposal that protects the right to unionization in Michigan. But other parts of the population have no interest in seeing workers unionized. And still others – many of those in the middle classes – have accepted the reactionary attacks against unions. Why should workers seek the permission of these parts of the population to organize and defend themselves?

If the proposal does not get passed, legislators will almost certainly take that defeat as a defeat for the right to unionize. Michigan will become a de-facto “right-to-work” state, encouraging the passage of the very anti-union laws the unions say they want to prevent. Governor Snyder has said that passage of Proposal 2 would be “devastating to the reinvention of Michigan,” which sure sounds like he wants to push through such laws.

With so much at stake now that the proposal is on the ballot, you’d think that the unions would be pulling out all the stops to make sure it passes. In fact, this hasn’t happened.

Some unions, such as the teachers unions, have been active in campaigning for the proposal. But the biggest unions, and especially the UAW, have done next to nothing to organize support for it. Workers in UAW workplaces have waited and waited for materials they could take to their family, friends and neighbors. No campaigns have been organized to mobilize UAW members to get the word out about the proposal. The UAW and other union structures have left the field wide open for lying right-wing campaigns against the proposal, funded by big donors like the Koch brothers. Not only that, but they’ve even pandered to that right-wing, pointing out the “selling point” of the proposal: that it specifically allows laws prohibiting public-sector workers from striking!

It would be tough for a proposal like this to win in the best of circumstances. But the lack of real mobilization by the union apparatuses deeply betrays the workers’ interests.

Certainly workers should want to vote Yes on Proposal 2. But we need to know we’ll have big fights waiting for us after the election, no matter how the vote turns out.