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Michigan Chamber of Commerce, the Protect Our Jobs Campaign and Class Warfare

May 14, 2012

In March, labor unions across the state announced an effort to change the Michigan Constitution by making collective bargaining rights part of the Constitution.

According to the Protect Our Jobs site:

For more than a year, Lansing politicians and corporate special interests have made one attack after another on Michigan workers: cutting middle-class families’ wages, health care benefits, retirement security and safety protections. They’re not done yet — there are more than 80 bills waiting for a vote in the state Legislature that would strip basic protections from working people.

Last week, the Michigan Chamber of Commerce formally came out against such an effort with their own rhetoric about what would be good for the state’s economy.

The Chamber’s Press Release on the Protect Our Jobs campaign states in part:

“This anti-taxpayer petition drive is squarely aimed at repealing dozens and dozens of cost-saving reform measures recently enacted by Gov. Snyder and the Michigan Legislature,” noted Jim Holcomb, Senior Vice President, Business Advocacy & General Counsel for the Michigan Chamber. “Across the nation, Michigan is increasingly being recognized as a leader in government efficiency and reform for enacting common sense solutions to government spending, but this proposal is a power grab by government employee unions who want to maintain the status quo without regard for the Michigan taxpayers footing the bill.”

“The Michigan Chamber doesn’t currently have a position for or against right-to-work,” Holcomb added. “However, the idea that a special interest group would amend the state constitution to cut off debate about legislation it doesn’t like is unfair and unwise.”

These last two sentences are interesting and worth looking at. While it is true that the Michigan Chamber of Commerce has not taken a strong public stand on the issue of making Michigan a Right to Work state, several local Michigan Chambers have come out in favor.

The Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce created a lobbying entity known as the West Michigan Policy Forum, which makes as one of its stated goals the implementation of Right to Work laws in Michigan. At their 2010 Summit, the West Michigan Policy Forum made Right to Work a key goal and even brought anti-union PR strategist Rick Berman to present on how to change public opinion about Right to Work.

The Michigan Chamber President Rich Studley concluded in the Press Release:

Government employee unions have declared war on our state’s economic competitiveness with this deceptive and counterproductive ballot proposal. Michigan’s job providers did not ask for this fight. But we will do whatever it takes to defeat the union’s plan to stop reinventing Michigan.”

It seems pretty clear that with these words that there is a class war going on in Michigan. The Michigan Chamber of Commerce and groups like the Mackinac Center for Public Policy have made it clear that profits are valued over working people in Michigan.

The ballot initiative by many labor groups in Michigan may not be the best response to challenge the power of capital, but it has clearly exposed the class war that capitalists continue to wage against working people.



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