Stateside: Right-to-work's future impact as potent as it is unpredictable

Dec 10, 2012

Michigan Radio’s senior political analyst Jack Lessenberry and Detroit News’s Daniel Howes discussed the implications of right-to-work in Michigan.

According to Howes, the right-to-work legislation is representative of the country’s current political divide.

“I view this in the context of the reckoning that is going on in Michigan in terms of its trying to come to terms with its post-war industrial past. The UAW has become dramatically weaker, dramatically smaller. This is indicative of the political divide we’re seeing in our country,” said Howes.

Lessenberry said the legislation will have long-term implications on Michigan Republicans.

“The problem is the way in which it was done and the Republicans will pay long-term costs for that,” said Lessenberry.

Part of the reason for urgent action is the Republican’s majority is now greater than it will be in the next session.

“The problem is that this in a way thumbs their nose at the voters in the election. If the Democrats and the unions hadn’t wasted money in the wrong places, they may have picked up the State House. This probably would not have passed in the new House,” said Lessenberry.

Howes insisted lawsuits will continue to be filed, noting Detroit as an example.

“You can bet they’re going to do everything they can to try to block it,” he said.

According to Lessenberry, Snyder's potential for reelection is not entirely clear.

“Remember two years ago President Obama was terribly weakened and then won reelection pretty easily,” he said.

“The other issue here is the economy. You’ve got an auto industry that is making more money than they have made in anybody’s memory. What Snyder may have going for him is some economic momentum. If the business community does rally around this, then that will help him,” said Howes.

Both Lessenberry and Howes are unsure about the legislation's overall impact on Michigan's economy.

“There’s really no clear sign that right-to-work states are doing a lot better,” said Lessenberry.

“If you look at the context of the auto industry, I don’t think there’s any question that most of the new plants by foreign automakers have gone to right-to-work states. There is a belief that once Michigan becomes right-to-work you’re going to see a Toyota plant opening in Michigan. I would not bet my paycheck on that. The other thing you have to look at is Michigan’s per capita income over the last decade has dropped like a stone,” said Howes.

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