There’s nothing much good to be said about what happened yesterday in Michigan. Governor Rick Snyder signed a so-called “right to work” law, which curtails the capacity of unions to require that workers pay them fees as a condition of their employment. Supporters of the law – many of whom claim themselves to be pro-union – argued the legislation was necessary in order for American companies successfully to compete in the global marketplace.
But if there’s nothing much good to be said about what happened in Lansing, there’s some good to be said. The fight was furious. It was ugly: thousands took to the streets to protest, some screaming and yelling in addition to chanting, “shame, shame;” union leaders swore loudly that they had only begun to fight; tears were shed, fists flew; property was trashed; and a couple of people were arrested. Moreover the story was a big one. Many of those who at first paid zero attention were struck by this particular union defeat – right in the heart of what still is one of the most pro-union states in the country.
So what’s good? It’s the absence of apathy. It’s a sign that whatever the legislation that yesterday was passed is not the end of American labor – but rather another chapter in a continuing saga.