Jeff Breslin: Workers' spirit stronger than Right To Work

Jeff Breslin, Michigan RN

Commentary by: Jeff Breslin, RN 

Today is a sad day in our state’s history as the so-called “right to work” law takes effect.

From the start, Gov. Rick Snyder insisted that this radical anti-worker legislation wasn’t on his agenda.

In December, he showed his true colors and signed “right to work for less,” pleasing millionaire Dick DeVos and other corporate interests while betraying the rest of us.

The undemocratic, illegal process used to pass that law was shameful. The bills were rushed through the Legislature in a way Michigan has never seen, without public comment and with citizens locked out of the Capitol at times.

Now Michigan is just another RTW state, handed over to corporations in a race to the bottom.

Gov. Snyder should know this, though: Michigan’s nurses and other working families are committed to overcoming this injustice.

The law is being challenged in court on grounds that it was passed in violation of the First Amendment and the Open Meetings Act and that it violates the constitution and federal labor laws.

Even if these laws are wrongly upheld, Michigan’s working families are focused on replacing the politicians who have torn our state apart.

Michigan voters aren’t stupid — they see that Gov. Snyder and his friends in the Legislature serve their corporate friends, not those of us who actually work for a living.

It’s no surprise that Gov. Snyder’s approval ratings plummeted after he signed “right to work.”

Michigan families will be working hard to overcome this unjust law through the courts and the political process, and most of all we will keep doing what we’ve always done: work hard to take care of our fellow citizens, build Michigan’s unions and our middle class. As the old labor movement saying goes: “Don’t mourn — organize.”

Registered nurses like me, teachers, construction workers and others will be in our workplaces every day, talking to our co-workers to build solidarity and keep our voices strong in the face of corporations that want to silence us.

That, essentially, is what “right to work” is about — corporations and CEOs silencing and dividing workers so they can cut our wages, benefits and safety standards for their own gain.

As for “worker freedom,” I have to laugh every time a politician uses that term. The only “freedom” a worker gets under RTW is the freedom to receive union benefits while letting everyone else pay the costs. The “freedom” to refuse to pay your fair share isn’t the kind of freedom most workers want in their workplace.

“Right to work” is meant to play on this tension between workers — something Gov. Snyder and the GOP acknowledged when they exempted firefighters and police officers.

The law could create divisions among them, they said.

Well, a law that’s good for some workers should be good for all workers – but “right to work” isn’t good for any of us.

Fortunately, the spirit of Michigan workers is stronger than the letter of this law.

That spirit will shine more than ever in the months to come

Jeff Breslin is a registered nurse at Sparrow Hospital and president of the Michigan Nurses Association.


Realated news on Right To Work (RTW)