More than a year ago I predicted that the Wisconsin recall elections and Michigan’s proposed Constitutional amendment making the closed shop permanent were the Big Labor equivalents of Germany’s last-ditch Western Front offensive in 1918 (a.k.a. Big Labor's Kaiserschlacht).
Thought the speed with which the Michigan GOP has acted has astounded long-time political observers, it is in fact a tribute to the experienced legislative team first-term Gov. Rick Snyder has assembled here in the Great Lakes State.
Setting aside the merits of the policy, its tactical execution has been flawless. Would that the Republicans in Washington were so skilled.
Few press accounts have reflected the difficult position and limited options available to Big Labor. While “It’s not over” makes a good sound bite, in a practical sense, the debate is over. The law will take effect this spring, and there the Dems can do about it. Here is why:
1. Unlike the Emergency Financial Manager bill, which was defeated in a statewide referendum this fall, there is no recourse to a ballot initiative because it contains and appropriation. Under the Michigan Constitution, measures with an appropriation become referendum-proof. This tactic was successfully used to push through Public Act 381, which reformed Michigan’s concealed carry laws.
Before that law took effect, gun control opponents attempted a lawsuit to strip out the appropriation, but it failed. The balance on the state Supreme Court has not changed since then, and it is extremely unlikely to overturn its precedent.
2. Recalls won’t help. As I noted elsewhere, Michigan’s Constitution does permit a recall, but it is a yes/no vote on the incumbent. Should an incumbent be removed, a new election is then scheduled. This means that recalling Gov. Snyder, would put Lt. Gov. Brian Calley temporarily in charge, and he is even more anti-union than Snyder.
During the madness in Wisconsin, the Dems did manage to recall a Republican legislator – who was promptly replaced by another Republican.
It should also be noted that because the state House just stood for reelection, recalls against them are not viable. The Dems could attempt to recall the state Senate, but the GOP majority there is overwhelming (26-12).
3. A new ballot initiative is too expensive. This will take time and money, and the unions are unlikely to prevail. Again, the same thing happened in regarding concealed carry, which had less support than right-to-work. Once the law took effect, people got used to it and the polls shifted even more against it.
Right now, Big Labor is in big trouble. Over the last election cycle, they have thrown everything they had into the effort to permanently enshrine their status in Michigan. They are now short on cash and will have an increasingly difficult time getting more.
In addition, the public is simply worn out. Liberals may treat politics as a hobby, the voters are already tired of it. Even the media are picking up on it: Mlive.com actually offers morning news summaries that leave out all mention of right-to-work because so many of their readers are tired of hearing about it.
Once the law takes effect, it will be a done deal and that will be that. Unless the Dems can take over state government in 2014 (a daunting proposition without all that union cash), right-to-work is here to stay.
BONUS BAD PRESS: Not much national coverage, but state media is noticing the thuggishness of the "mostly pleaceful protesters." Helpful hint to Big Labor goons: Be careful whose cart you knock over - it may be a local fixture beloved by the community.