An inanimate object or representational figure manipulated by an entertainer can be amusing and tell a story, and it is insignificant if the puppet-master is evil or kind, as long as the puppet is benign. However, a person manipulated by an outside entity, regardless their outward behavior, can be deceiving and dangerous. Over the past few days, Michigan’s governor and GOP legislature moved quickly to pass and sign a bill into law at the direction of their puppet masters the Koch brothers with assistance from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and Americans for Prosperity.
The inaccurately named Right to Work (RTW) law signed yesterday by Koch puppet Rick Snyder was rushed through the GOP-controlled House because Republicans were concerned they may lack the votes once the newly elected legislature was seated in January. Snyder previously said the legislation was not a “policy priority” because it was “too divisive,” but his change of heart is calculated political payback against unions for supporting Democrats in the recent election, and a direct attack on public and private sector unions.
Last week, identical bills dealing with private and public sector unions sailed through the GOP Senate, and after the bills were signed into law, Snyder hailed them as “pro-worker and pro-Michigan.” During the floor debate House Speaker Jase Bolger said “this is about freedom, fairness and equality,” and that “these are basic American rights, rights that should unite us.” After the vote he said “Michigan’s future has never been brighter, because workers are free.” The workers are not exactly free, but they will be much cheaper for business as they earn lower wages, reduced health benefits, and smaller pensions that do little for workers and everything for big business.
A Michigan economist commenting on the RTW law, Charles Ballard, said, “If what we want to do is do a little bit better at attracting low-wage jobs, I think this may help, but it will not galvanize Michigan’s economy.” For the RTW law’s proponents, galvanizing Michigan’s economy was not the motivation; empowering the Koch brothers to do whatever they want to working people was, and RTW ensures middle class workers get lower wages, slashed benefits, disappearing pensions, and unsafe workplaces. It is precisely the prescription for the middle class the Koch brothers planned well in advance, and to help Michigan Republicans expedite the bill’s passage, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) provided the template.
The ALEC-aligned legislators beholden to their corporate masters simply copied ALEC’s model Right to Work template into the Michigan legislation, and it is nearly verbatim from the ALEC template. The ALEC model is part of the agenda Charles and David Koch have attempted to popularize and move from the fringes into binding law. The Koch’s private political operatives, Americans for Prosperity, backed the legislation in Michigan that is integral to Koch’s libertarian agenda of destroying union representation and eliminating their support for Democrats.
The Kochs may be celebrating their puppet’s success in Michigan for restricting union workers’ elected bargaining agent from negotiating pay, benefits and working conditions, but after being protected by union representation, workers will not stand idly by and be subjected to right to work conditions. Maybe earning minimum wage, living off food stamps, and depending on Medicaid for basic survival is bliss for Southern Red state workers, but Michigan union labor will not comport being treated as little more than slaves. However, they have a long battle ahead of them.
The ALEC legislation was contrived to make one of America’s workers’ rights strongholds into a RTW state at the behest of some of the biggest corporations in the world. It is an ongoing subversive effort to seize control of the government and destroy democracy by corporatists intent on transforming America into a land of peasants serving wealthy industrialists. As is usually the case, corporate backers of the ALEC law fraudulently claimed RTW laws significantly improve job growth and workers’ wages, but the evidence shows the exact opposite is true. According to the Economic Policy Institute, RTW does not boost economic growth, has no significant impact on attracting employers, lowers wages, and threatens employment benefits. Lower wages threaten job growth by reducing worker’s discretionary income, and when workers have less, they spend less, which in turn hurts the economy. Of the 22 states (mostly in the South) that labor under RTW conditions, not one has increased employment or boosted the economy as evidenced by red states with chronically lower wages, increased entitlement dependency, and predictable Republican majorities intent on weakening unions.
As union representation falls, so goes the middle class, and the past four years have seen a torrid attack on the middle class by Republicans in Congress and state legislatures. Remember, Republicans are against living wages, good benefits, voting participation, Social Security and unions that make the middle class strong by giving workers a voice in the labor market and democracy. Nine of the ten states with the lowest percentage of union workers are RTW states, and they have the weakest middle class (60% of the population) that is below the national average. Republicans are driving to make that pattern universal across the nation.
The ALEC-Koch attack on unions goes beyond punishing workers with low wages, although that is a value-added benefit for corporate America. Unions carry political clout that helps translate workers’ interests to elected officials, and ensure government serves the middle class’s economic needs, not corporations. Unions were instrumental in securing policies that support the middle class such as Social Security, the Affordable Care Act, workplace safety, lunch breaks, 40-hour work week, family leave, and minimum-wage laws, and it is exactly why conservatives support RTW laws; to destroy social programs and economic policy benefiting all Americans. There are myriad benefits to corporate America to weaken unions, but none as critical as eliminating their influence as a political force; damaging workers and the middle class is an extra benefit to entertain the Koch brothers.
Rick Snyder, ALEC, Americans for Prosperity, and the Republican Party are co-conspirators serving the Koch brothers’ quest for dominion over this country, realization of their vision of free market capitalism, and a libertarian paradise. At the last secret Koch Industries confab, the Kochs prepped for the “mother of all wars” that was the 2012 general election, and although they suffered a crushing defeat, their operatives (ALEC) had already laid the groundwork for a continuous assault on unions and democracy. The ALEC RTW legislation Michigan’s law was modeled after was from ALEC’s 1995 Sourcebook of American State Legislation, and it is a carefully planned, long term campaign to subvert democracy which is the sole intention of RTW, ALEC, AFP, and their puppet masters Charles and David Koch.