Today, in the midst of a two-week spring break for lawmakers, so-called "Right to Work" legislation goes into effect. Not long ago on the Senate floor, I urged my Republican colleagues that we not take this break until the people of Michigan were answered by a vote on my legislation to repeal "Right to Work," but to no avail. So I couldn't help but be taken aback when I read yesterday's column written by my colleague, Sen. Meekhof, about the "courage" it took to enact such legislation. As a reminder, this legislation was passed by my Republican colleagues with little regard for the legislative process we regularly ascribe to. In fact, it was passed with what I would call downright cowardice, rather than courage.
It all began with Governor Snyder repeatedly claiming that "Right to Work" was "divisive" and "not on my agenda" throughout his first two years in office. Then, in a display of utter weakness, he buckled under pressure and did a complete flip-flop on the issue. Then, in a scramble to have it passed during Lame Duck session -- when members of the House could vote as they pleased before leaving office -- the legislative process was sidestepped from start to finish. Instead of receiving a committee hearing or public input on the bills, the Republican majority took the bills straight to the floor. This complex and highly controversial issue was rushed through the House and Senate without enough time for legislators to even so much as read the content of the bills. Countless protestors and members of the media were unconstitutionally locked out of the Capitol building and ignored throughout the process. Knowing the repulsive nature of the legislation, the Republican majority inserted a financial appropriation, making the bills referendum-proof. That's right, they went out of their way to ensure that the public will not be allowed a vote on this issue, should they wish to reverse it.
Was it courageous for Sen. Meekhof to bring this bill up for a vote without allowing a single moment of public debate on it? Or was it courageous when the doors of the Capitol building were locked while the vote was taking place to keep the public from even seeing what was to transpire? The truth is, there was nothing courageous about what took place in the Capitol that day, only cowardice from the governor and Republicans in the legislature.
Whether you support "Right to Work" or not, it's clear that there is a need for thorough and informed review, healthy debate and public discourse in our political process, and sadly, "Right to Work" was passed without any of it. In his column, my colleague Mr. Meekhof talks of this being one of the 'tough decisions' he's had to make in office, but I haven't seen him make a tough decision yet. Decisions on issues such as tax increases on the middle class and disinvestment in public education have come all too easy for the Senator and his party, who are completely out-of-touch with those they were elected to serve.
Mr. Meekhof even had the gall to address GOP plans to punish universities and school districts that renegotiated union contracts before the so called Right to Work law went into effect --a move that the Detroit Free Press has called "insulting hypocrisy" and something they're "tempted to laugh pretty hard at." The proposed legislation would hit such universities with a 15 percent cut in state aid and cause the K-12 school districts to lose their share of $46 million in performance grants and $50 million in technology infrastructure improvement grants.
I find the irony almost humorous in Mr. Meekhof's use of terms such as "11th-hour desperation tactics" and "burning the midnight oil," when they so perfectly describe the actions taken by the Republican Party in enacting "Right to Work" in Michigan. All in all, this legislation is every bit as wrong for Michigan today as it was the day it was voted on, and I plan to continue fighting the issue on behalf of the hardworking people of Michigan.