LeDuff: New bills and laws have Michigan heading south

LeDuff: New bills and laws have Michigan heading south

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Off the Chain Opinion

(DETROIT) I woke up this morning, unfolded the newspapers and was shocked – shocked I tell you! -- to learn that I'm now living in Dixie.

We've become a gun-toting, low-wage making band of menstrual moralizers . It's like Carolina except they've got better weather and actually get their pickups dirty.

The Michigan I grew up in used to be a moderate, libertarian, live-free-or-die sort of place. Now the Mitten has become a fist. That's what happens when you run out of money in America, I guess.

Consider the raft of 11th hour lame duck legislation from Lansing, that in the flash on an eye and signature from Governor Snyder's pen, will become the law of the land. The allowance of guns in public schools and churches; a requirement that doctors be sure women have not been coerced before performing an abortion (imagine the lawsuits there.) And most bellicose of all – the right-to-work law which means workers no longer have to pay union dues or fees even if they benefit from a union bargained contract.

In the long term, this means the virtual death of organized labor in a state where it was born just 75 years ago. The span of a single human life. Without money unions cannot organize, sue or strike. In effect, they're neutered.

Right to work states, it is true, attract more new businesses than states without them.  But that may have more to do with those states offering businesses generous tax-breaks and benefit packages paid for by the public.  A recent New York Times investigation found that states, counties and cities are giving up more than $80 billion each year in breaks and incentives to companies. Nevertheless, it is unclear how many jobs these breaks have actually created.

I've worked in a right-to-work slaughterhouse in the Carolina. Believe me, it ain't pretty. The company cheated on overtime, safety rules and employed illegal migrant labor and prisoners as a way to keep wages down. Turnover at the plant, predictably, was 100 percent a year.

As an employee and a union member, I admit that I like the choice of whether or not to pay dues. It saves me money for one. And it forces the union bosses, long deaf to my complaints or political leanings, to take notice.

But there was no need to pick the fight. More than 82 percent of working adults in Michigan do not belong to a union. Even new UAW hires make right-to-work wages. That's the consequence of competition and capital movement in the new global economy. 

What the Legislature has done is ignite cultural civil war in Michigan. That's why Gov. Rick Snyder was against the legislation until he caved in to pressure from his own party this week and signed it into law.

Big Labor and the Democrats promise retribution. And so the problems we need to fix – the things that actually discourage business from setting up shop in Michigan – will fester. Our taxes are too high. Our children are illiterate. Four of the 10 most dangerous cities in America are in Michigan.  Instead of addressing the lack of police, we arm the co-ed. Instead of tort reform, we create a new avenue for medical malpractice suits.

The middle ground is slipping away faster than the middle class. You may not agree with me, but it is my right to say it. At least for now.  Now please excuse me while I step outside to smoke a cigarette – 50 feet from the building.

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