Cross-posted from Leslie Miller at Teamster Nation:
Hundreds of working people ready to go to jail to defend their rights crowded into UAW Local 600 in Dearborn this morning. They came to learn about peaceful civil disobedience, a tactic that will be used in the fight against the right-to-work-for-less bill moving quickly through the Michigan Legislature.
The union hall couldn’t hold all the nurses, autoworkers, Teamsters, teachers, members of SEIU, AFSCME, UFCW, ISO and other unions. Their families, retirees and pastors came too. The overflow crowd listened carefully to the civil disobedience trainer about what their rights are and what they should do when arrested. They were told to de-escalate confrontation, to keep cool heads in the front of the action and put hotheads in the back.
The civil disobedience training, which is open to the news media, is one of a number of actions planned over the next few days. The actions will lead up to a large rally in Lansing on Tuesday to protest the right-to-work-for-less bill expected to become law that day. There will be flash mobs, rallies, fake auctions of the middle class and news conferences. They’ll be held in Flint, Saginaw, Lansing, Detroit, Ann Arbor, Kalamazoo — well, all over the state. Stay tuned for more.
We’re following the action on twitter. From the Michigan Nurses Association @minurses:
Civil disobedience training: we don’t want this fight but we are united & will go to jail for justice if needed #SaveMI #rtw
Tx! We stand for healing & justice for all. RT @annaironside: @minurses Wisconsin stands in #solidarity with you! Keep up the fight!
Meanwhile, the NFL Players Association put out a statement opposing the anti-worker, pro-poverty bill. ThinkProgress reports:
“We stood up against this in the past, and we stand against it in its current form in Michigan,” George Atallah, the association’s assistant executive director for external affairs, told ThinkProgress in a phone interview. “Our leadership and players are always proud to stand with workers in Michigan and everywhere else. We don’t think voters chose this, and we don’t think workers deserve this.”
President Obama agrees. The Huffington Post reports:
“President Obama has long opposed so-called ‘right to work’ laws and he continues to oppose them now,” said White House spokesperson Matt Lehrich. “The President believes our economy is stronger when workers get good wages and good benefits, and he opposes attempts to roll back their rights. Michigan – and its workers’ role in the revival of the US automobile industry – is a prime example of how unions have helped build a strong middle class and a strong American economy.”
Rep. Brandon Dillon, a Grand Rapids Democrat, said the protests are just the beginning of a long fight against the union-busting bill.WZZM News reported:
…”you’re gonna see any and all efforts to continue to fight this,” says State Rep. Brandon Dillon, a Grand Rapids Democrat. ”This, as one of my colleagues said, was a declaration of war. This is going to be just the beginning.”
There will be time to fight it. Reuters reports:
The proposed Michigan “right-to-work” law will not apply to existing union contracts, a leading sponsor of the proposal said on Friday, which may blunt its immediate impact on the huge auto industry in the state…
The law would actually take effect at the end of March, (Senate Majority Leader Randy) Richardville said on Thursday.
But the legislation has a so-called “grandfather” clause exempting existing union contracts until they expire, said Republican state Senator Arlan Meekhof, a sponsor of the plan.
Major automakers General Motors Co, Ford Motor Co. , and Chrysler signed a four-year contract with the United Auto Workers which runs until Sept. 14, 2015, a spokeswoman for GM said.
“They can continue to operate just as they are until the next contract,” said Bob Clark, a labor relations consultant and former Ford labor economist, who based his interpretation on the wording of the draft law.
Meanwhile, contrast the courage shown by people willing to be arrested for their rights to the cowardice of the lawmakers who voted to turn Michigan into Canada’s Mexico.
Ed Kilgore, writing in the Washington Monthly, quoted the Michigan Senate’s Democratic Leader, Gretchen Whitmer;
These guys have lied to us all along the way. They are pushing through the most divisive legislation they could come up with in the dark of night, at the end of a lame-duck session and then they’re going to hightail it out of town. It’s cowardly.