Metro Times asks, and the UAW president answers
Published: January 30, 2013
That meeting never got convened. I assumed that when he [Snyder] went back to DeVos and others, they said no. But I don’t know. I just know that I offered to be in the meeting, and the meeting never happened. I know that when I said to him, “Will you publicly commit?” it was really two things: a public commitment not to sign Right to Work, and then to figure out how to reverse the petty and vindictive attack on the teachers’ unions.
MT: So if Gov. Snyder had publicly committed not to sign Right to Work, Prop. 2 would not have been pursued?
King: That’s right.
MT: You mentioned some mistakes were made regarding Prop. 2. What were they?
King:Our goal, part of our strategy, was that we had to get 80 percent of union members and union families. We didn’t reach that benchmark. And we didn’t reach our benchmarks with the public and with the core Democratic constituency, [and getting them to understand] that it was not a power grab by labor, it was an attempt by labor to keep a fair balance of power.
And the opposition spent a tremendous amount of money on their “don’t mess with our constitution” campaign … even though we have things in our constitution like the bottle return law, which was a constitutional amendment. They did a better PR job than we did.
In retrospect, it was a really — I don’t know the right way to say this … we made a huge mistake in having three labor ballots. We had the emergency manager measure, we had Prop. 2, we had Prop. 4. We in labor should have figured out how to have one.
MT:So what is the path forward now, in regard to Right to Work?
King:I don’t know yet. We’ve got a great legal team made up of attorneys representing a whole bunch of different unions, both locally and nationally, looking at [possible] legal challenges. I think that folks feel that the law is too broad and is in violation of federal pre-emption, in some cases. Whether that will be enough to knock down the whole law, I don’t know.
But we’re not relying only on that. We’re also looking at what our other options are. It’s really clear we have to win back the governorship. There’s a path to majority in the House, it’s tougher in the Senate. So we’re looking at all that, we’re looking at what is the best strategy.
What’s really important for myself personally and, I think, for the majority of people in labor, is that we understand that his attacks on women, his attacks on K-12 education, the tremendously unfair way that they’ve done taxation, with retirees having to pay taxes on their pensions, there have been more serious wounds inflicted on a lot of people in Michigan. So our cause is much broader than just Right to Work. In many ways the other issues are more important.
So our goal is to have Michigan government be more reflective of the values of Michigan citizens. I think that you’ve seen it in the way that the governor’s favorability ratings have dropped so dramatically. People don’t like the undemocratic way that they jammed things through and the lame duck session, they don’t like the extremism of the positions, how ideological the governor and the House and Senate have been.
I think that there’s a real opportunity to recapture Michigan with people’s values. I think that our strategy should be much, much broader than Right to Work. It’ll be about how do we recapture the government, or how do we put in place a government that really is responsive to the values and principles of the broad majority of Michiganders.
The fact that President Obama won Michigan by nine-and-a-half points is really encouraging, because that was clearly a values question. People voted on values in which they believe … and they don’t agree with the attacks on women’s rights, they don’t agree with the attacks on immigrants, they don’t agree with the attacks on labor. So I think there’s a broad core of issues that could bring together a really strong movement for a more progressive government in Michigan.
MT: I’ve seen you talk about the polarization that is going on in politics and the need to get past that. To me, though, it seems like the polarization is the result of this extreme right-wing faction of the Republican Party that is just completely intransigent and also cutthroat. You talked about the Koch brothers and the DeVoses; these are people who seem to have it out for workers. That they’re looking out for the upper class, the class that they’re a part of …
King:Yeah, the 1 percent, the top 1 percent of 1 percent, really.
MT:Yes, at the expense of everybody else. And they will spend however much it takes. They’ve been doing it since the ’70s, moving things more and more to the right. And they’re not compromisers, so how do you get rid of the polarization, if you think that that’s true?
King:Well, I think that the only way to get rid of it is if you elect more pragmatic people, rather than ideological people, in the government. What gives me hope and optimism is what I know from the UAW experience.
The UAW got a certain brand image or a certain public image that doesn’t reflect who we are today. What I think the Republican Party doesn’t understand, or the majority of people in the Republican Party don’t understand, is that they are creating, accurately, they are creating a real brand image for the Republican Party being anti-women, anti-immigrant, anti-worker, as being real extremist and being only for the wealthy. …
I think that some people in the Republican Party, those for instance who [just] voted for the fiscal deal, realize that their party is controlled by too many extremists. Now whether that’s a one-time vote or whether that same kind of split happens again, I don’t know.
Somebody I was talking to the other day reminded me of the Whig Party. They said that’s what happened to them; they just split internally. So I think that’s the danger for the Republican Party. And that’s also the opportunity for us, that they’re so extreme that it’s not what the populace wants.
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