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How Michigan Republicans Caught Labor Off-Guard, Making Law Worse than Wisconsin's

A law that seemed to happen overnight was actually years in the making, but Gov. Snyder's election-year fear of a Koch-funded group may have tipped the balance.

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But unions are not totally without blame in this equation. As Ruth Conniff of the Progressive, a publication known as a stalwart supporter of labor, points out, unions, especially the UAW, made perhaps too many concessions along the way, weakening their power and the public perception thereof. And, as Harold Meyerson notes in his comprehensive TAP piece (“ What Happens if Labor Dies?”), by the 1980s unions were hardly working to broaden their membership. "Lulled during the years of labor’s power into thinking they’d attained sufficient numbers to keep on winning better contracts, they largely stopped organizing,” Meyerson writes, “devoting only 4 percent of their budgets to recruiting new members.”

The next step for Michigan labor leaders and their allies is to get a referendum on the ballot that would essentially repeal the just-passed union-busting law. It will be a hard fight, and could take several years to win, Yeselson writes, but it’s winnable.

But that’s just Michigan. What’s needed is a national, progressive strategy that encompasses labor battles -- after all, this is the essence of the class war fight -- with all the other progressive issues. (Just a day after passing the anti-labor law, Michigan’s legislature introduced a bill that would allow healthcare providers to opt out of providing care that goes against their religious beliefs.) Most of these battles take place at the state level. Progressives need an ALEC of their own -- and a lot of boots on the ground.

Adele M. Stan is a journalist based in Washington, D.C., who specializes in covering the intersection of religion and politics. She is RH Reality Check's senior Washington correspondent.