Over 3,500 union activists monitored Michigan’s presidential primary polls to warn voters against a potential Right to Work petition drive on January 15th. Sensing the impending union onslaught, the Right to Work forces failed to show up.
"We have proved that if and when the Right to Work campaign comes, they will have a much bigger battle than they had been originally thinking," said AFL-CIO President Mark Gaffney. "We found that rank-and-file members responded to this issue with much more excitement than you find for a candidate."
Demonstrating a mighty show of unity, labor unions including the Michigan Education Association, the AFL-CIO and the Change to Win Coalition combined their talent and resources to recruit and train volunteers to work the polls statewide. In addition, volunteers were also educating voters on how to vote and the need for healthcare reform.
"Michigan labor showed its strength. Working families know that Right to Work is about working for less pay and they know it’s bad for Michigan’s families," observed Ed Leary a member of the USW and, one of the organizers of the anti-Right to Work effort.
Brent Gillette, the National Political Director for the Michigan State AFL-CIO who coordinated the campaign, was also pleased, "This was a true unified solidarity movement in the state of Michigan with all internationals, labor councils and all locals on board with the same message: Right to Work is toxic for Michigan."
State union officials consider this the first battle in the Right to Work war since there may still be ballot initiative petitions this spring or at election time in 2010.
Saundra Williams, President of the Metro Detroit AFL-CIO, decided, "The Right to Work – Decline to Sign Petition Program was a success because of volunteers who realize the value of organized labor. I am most proud of how with very little notice, and over the holiday season, organized labor was able to mobilize and train over 3500 volunteers from unions across the state. In a war that is being bought to us by forces that want to destroy the middle class, this was just the first battle."
The Labor community, along with other allies of Michigan’s working families, sent a very powerful message to special interests that ‘Right to Work’ isn’t going to happen in Michigan.
"Although there doesn’t seem to be a Right to Work campaign for now, we intend to continue educating people on the importance of a good job to our state’s economy. We’re not going to bring the economy back by cutting wages," stated Mark Gaffney, President of the Michigan State AFL-CIO.
"We want to thank our union affiliates – the Michigan Education Association and the Change to Win unions – who worked alongside the AFL-CIO during this huge effort," proclaimed President Gaffney. "Michigan Labor is united in our efforts to protect living standards of all union and non-union Michigan workers."