MTA supports Michigan teachers and unions

The Massachusetts Teachers Association is strongly opposed to the anti-union “right-to-work” law that moved through the Michigan legislature last week and is possibly headed to the Michigan governor’s desk this week.

Governor Rick Snyder had previously opposed the bill but did an about-face on Thursday and said he would sign it. The bill would hurt both public and private sector unions, though police and fire unions would be exempted. Teachers and other union members and their supporters are holding protests in several Michigan cities this week.

“This is yet another attempt to weaken unions and silence the voice of working and middle class employees,” said MTA President Paul Toner. “It is backed by big corporations and special interests who want to boost their profits by cutting their employees’ pay and reducing taxes needed to hire and compensate teachers and other public sector workers.”

The term “right to work” refers to laws that prohibit requiring workers to pay union dues as a condition of employment.  Michigan Education Association President Steve Cook explained why the very premise of the bill is a “lie” in a statement issued on December 6.

“No one is forced to join a union – that’s already illegal,” Cook said. “This allows workers to get out of paying their fair share of what it costs to negotiate the contract they benefit from. Whether proponents call this ‘right-to-work’ or ‘freedom-to-work’, it’s really just ‘Freedom to Freeload.’”

Twenty-three states have passed similar legislation. Massachusetts is not one of them. President Barack Obama made an impassioned pro-union speech at the Daimler Diesel plant in Redmond Township, Mich., today in which he expressed his strong opposition to “right to work” laws.

After talking about the need to invest in domestic industries, Obama was loudly cheered when he said, “By the way, what we shouldn’t be doing is trying to take away your rights to bargain for better wages. These so called right-to-work laws don’t have anything to do with economics – they have to do with politics. What they’re really talking about is giving you the right to work for less money.”

Obama went on to say, “We don’t want a race to the bottom, we want a race to the top! America’s not going to compete based on low-skill, low wage, no workers’ rights. That’s not our competitive advantage. There’s always going to be some other country that can treat its workers even worse. Right? What’s going to make us succeed is we’ve got the best workers, well trained, reliable, productive, low turnover, healthy. That’s what makes us strong. And also it’s what allows our workers then to buy the products that we make. They’ve got enough money in their pockets.”