Obama: Look at Michigan to See How Unions Built America's Middle Class

By Fred Lucas | December 10, 2012 | 4:20pm EST


A vacant housing project in Detroit. (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) Speaking at the Daimler Detroit Diesel Plant in Redford, Mich., on Monday, President Barack Obama lashed out at the Michigan legislature, which is preparing to pass a right-to-work law, and declared that Americans only needed to look at Michigan if they wanted to see how unions helped build the middle class.

“These so called right to work laws, they don’t have to do with economics,” Obama said. "They have everything to do with politics.

"What they’re really talking about is giving you the right to work for less money," said Obama. "You only have to look to Michigan where workers were instrumental in reviving the auto industry to see how unions have helped build not just a stronger middle class but a stronger America.”

Unemployment in Michigan was 9.1 percent in October, and there's talk about Detroit, Michigan's largest city, going bankrupt. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder recently told the Detroit Free Press that his staff has begun reviewing municipal bankruptcies in other states.

The Michigan right-to-work proposal would make union dues and membership voluntary for private sector unions and most public sector unions. Police and firefighters are the exception.

Gov. Snyder has said he would sign the bill to make Michigan the nation’s 24th right-to-work state.

Obama scoffed at the legislation.

“We should do everything we can to encourage companies like Daimler to keep investing in American workers,” Obama said Monday. “And by the way, what we shouldn’t do, I just got to say this, what we shouldn’t be doing is try to take away your rights to bargain for better wages and working conditions.”

This comment was followed by 23 seconds of applause from a crowd at the plant.

Gov. Snyder said the issue was about freedom.

“We respect the fact that the freedom-to-work issue evokes strong emotions among supporters and opponents,” the governor said in a statement. “That's why we've focused on other reforms that are so critical to Michigan’s turnaround. But with this issue now on the table, it's time to embrace the benefits that come with giving working men and women the freedom they deserve.

“The values of freedom, fairness and equality in the workplace should unite us all. And as states fiercely compete for jobs, this legislation will ensure that investors know Michigan is the place to do business,” Snyder added.

Union contracts typically require average dues of $600 to $900 per year, according to the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.

Meanwhile, a Detroit Free Press poll found that 54 percent support the idea of a right-to-work state. However, when asked if Michigan should be a right-to-work state, the number is split to 47 percent in favor and 46 percent opposed.

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