Over 10,000 union supporters could not stop the passage of "right to work" legislation that was passed by Michigan lawmakers on December 11. Up until a week ago, Republican Gov. Rick Snyder said he opposed the bill, but he changed his mind and pushed the bill through a lame duck House in record time. Teamster president James Hoffa was not surprised. "This push to get the right to work law was funded by Amway, Karl Rove, and the Koch brothers."

Union members gathered early Tuesday morning to march on the Capitol despite freezing temperatures and snow flurries. En route they chanted, "This is what Democracy looks like" and "Whose streets? Our streets," slogans recently heard during Occupy Wall Street marches.

Union member Dan Clark stood with a mock coffin in front of the capitol. "If the governor signs the bill, then today will be the first day in the fight to overturn it," he said.

Inside the state capitol, protesters practiced civil disobedience, sitting down in the middle of the rotunda. Jesse Jackson, Democratic Michigan senator Gretchen Whitmer and Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero expressed gratitude for those who turned out.

"It is a shameful day in Michigan's history," said Whitmer. "This governor has lied to the people for two years. He does an about face and then pushes through the most divisive legislation and in that way tramples on everyone's right to have a voice in this process. It is absolutely disgusting and we are going to continue to fight. This fight is not over."

Beth Young, a member of the Plumbers and Fitters union for 28 years, said she knew Tuesday's action wouldn't stop Snyder from signing the bill into law "but at least I came out here and stood up and am not sitting on my hands." Michigan, she said, was just starting to recover from hard economic times but this law will erase the gains.

Ron Estrada, of United Auto Workers Local 160, pointed out that Michigan is the birthplace of the union, the last place this should happen. "To be attacked by industry makes no sense. Who will buy the products they make when they no longer make a decent wage?" Christie Medina, trustee for local 602, moved to Michigan from Tennessee, a right to work state where she saw people got fired for no reason and those working got lower wages -- "so low no one can buy a home or car," she said. "People are forced to eat unhealthy food because they can't afford fresh fruit and vegetables," she said. It saddens her that this is what Michigan will now face.

Dannielle McGuire said passage of Right to Work legislation is Snyder's way to get back at the unions after they got Proposal 2 on the ballot to make collective bargaining a state constitutional right. The proposal failed. Synder said that Prop 2 was unnecessary and made him rethink his position on right to work.

Retried teacher Ray Chappa pointed out that the day's events were inspired by the Occupy movement, which has brought into focus the disparity between the 1% and the 99%. "The right to work law is an attack on the middle class," Chappa said, "and the 99% need to resist."

Julie Dermansky is a photojournalist.

Now's a great time to subscribe to The Progressive magazine. You'll get a FREE copy of our 2013 "Hidden History of the United States" calendar when you subscribe for just $14.97 for the whole year. That's 75% off the newsstand price, and the calendar is yours for free. Just click here.

Add new comment

By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.


The beauty and the tragedy of everyday life in a war zone.

Maybe I should only be shocked that I wasn’t shocked a long time ago.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

Public School Shakedown

Progressive Media Project