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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Responding to the Sneak Attack Vs. Michigan Labor

The Nation’s John Nichols has a sobering article for Dems who may still be basking in the warm glow of the election. Nichols’s “GOP, Koch Brothers Sneak Attack Guts Labor Rights in Michigan” tells the disturbing story of how the government of the once mighty industrial state of Michigan has been turned into an anti-labor bastion almost overnight:

In the state where workers sat down in Flint General Motors plants 75 years ago and emboldened the industrial labor movement that would give birth to the American middle class, Republican legislators on Thursday voted to gut basic labor rights.
…After Republican leaders announced Thursday morning that they intended to enact so-called “Right-to-Work” legislation – which is always better described as “No-Rights-at-Work” legislation – the Michigan state House voted Thursday afternoon to eliminate basic union organizing and workplace protections that generations of American workers fought to establish. Several hours later, the Michigan state Senate did the same thing, as part of a bold anti-labor initiative launched in coordination with a Koch Brothers-funded Americans for Prosperity project to “pave the way for right to work in states across our nation.”
As the Republicans launched the attack on unions and their members, Americans for Prosperity — a group developed and funded by right-wing industrialists and billionaire campaign donors Charles and David Koch — was in the thick of things. AFP recruited conservatives to show up at the state Capitol in Lansing to counter union protests and prepared materials supporting the Michigan initiative, including a 15-page booklet titled “Unions: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: How forced unionization has harmed workers and Michigan.” Within minutes of the announcement by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder that Republicans would ram through the “Right-to-Work” legislation, AFP was hailing the move in formal statements “as the shot heard around the world for workplace freedom.”
Snyder, a Republican, has indicated that he will sign the measure that was passed during a lame-duck session of the legislature.

This despite the fact that President Obama carried Michigan by a 10-point margin and his stated opposition to the so-called “right to work” law. Nichols adds that “The Republican legislators evidenced no intention to listen to logic, or to entertain honest debate. GOP legislative leaders had plotted behind closed doors with Governor Snyder, to have Michigan join the traditionally lower-wage states that decades ago enacted “Right-to-Work” laws to thwart the rise of a labor movement…” Protestors who managed to get inside the legislative chamber were pepper-sprayed, while others were locked out.

All of which brings an urgent reminder of the importance of state legislative races and the continuing threat to American living standards posed by anti-labor corporations. The Michigan labor movement is stunned, but determined to fight back. For the forseeable future, however, the Koch brothers and their Republican minions in the state legislature will continue their war on unions.
In the past, some progressives have urged boycott of Koch brothers products. But it’s a difficult challenge, since much of their business is not so visible at the retail level. However, according to this website, there are some familiar Koch Brothers products progressive consumers could boycott, including:

– Angel Soft
– Angel Soft Ultra
– Brawny paper towels
– Dixie cups (& napkins & plates)
– Insulair cups
– Perfect Touch cups, paper products
– Quilted Northern
– Sparkle paper towels
– Stainmaster
– Vanity Fair napkins & paper towels
– Mardis Gras napkins
– Zee Napkins
– Georgia Pacific products
Home/Office papers:
– Advantage
– Image Plus
– Spectrum
– Stainmaster
– Lycra
– Teflon
Building supplies:
– Georgia Pacific

Boycotts are one powerful way to influence corporations, along with stockholders campaigns, picketing and other publicity and educational initiatives. The Koch Brothers appear to be beyond any capacity for shame. But it’s just possible that complaining stockholders could compel them to reconsider.

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