12/12/2012 11:54 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Michigan Republicans Repeat Economy-Wrecking Doctrine

Michigan has become the latest Republican-led effort to wreck economic growth in passing a right-to-work law that restricts unions. With all apologies to Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine, Republicans are no longer waiting for recessions to enrich their wealthiest supporters -- as they did in passing GW Bush's tax cuts during the 2001 recession and in 2003 that caused the largest budget deficit in history, precipitating the Great Recession.

Michigan is a textbook example of how ALEC and Americans for Prosperity, the big business lobby and the Koch Brothers have worked to bust unions. Michigan is the 24th state to enact Right-to-Work Laws that take away unions' ability to organize and charge union dues to finance union benefits. But more insidiously it weakens the ability to bargain for their own wages and salaries. This is when corporate profits and CEO salaries are already the largest in history.

We know the result in 23 other states. They are the poorest states, who require the most government assistance. So this exposes Republicans and conservatives agenda in general. Restricting union organizing and collective bargaining impoverishes the majority of wage and salary workers, which drives the poorest into government assistance at the slightest economic downturn. This preserves the profits of the rentiers who live off of corporate profits, while passing on the costs of wrecking the incomes of the majority to government-financed programs -- i.e., our tax monies.

Wisconsin's direct restriction of collective bargaining rights for government employees was the most blatant example until now. By directly restricting their incomes and benefits, it puts a wrecking ball to income growth in Wisconsin, putting it into the group of have-not states that have consistently lower standards of living.

Many studies have shown this, but the most convincing evidence is listing the have-not states. They include the most rural and red states in the South and Midwest dependent on government benefits to supplement the meager incomes and lower standard of living of their citizens.


Graph: Bureau of Labor Statistics

The AFL-CIO has put out the latest statistics on union, vs. non-union incomes and benefits: Employees covered by union contracts receive 28 percent more in wages and benefits than workers without unions. For women workers, the union advantage is 34 percent. For African American workers, the union advantage is 29 percent. And for Hispanic workers, the union advantage is a whopping 50 percent. When "right to work" laws weaken unions and drive down wages and benefits, workers have less to spend and the entire economy -- particularly small business -- suffers.

It should be blindingly obvious why Republicans are pushing their anti-union agenda. It expands the wealth and power of the wealthiest at the expense of everyone else.