Bill Fletcher Jr.ColumnistsOp-EdOpinion

Neutering Democracy in Michigan

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum and the author of “They’re Bankrupting Us” – And Twenty Other Myths about Unions.
Bill Fletcher, Jr. 

By Bill Fletcher, Jr.
NNPA Columnist

You may not have heard about this. Earlier this month, a piece of legislation was introduced in the Michigan state legislature that is aimed at killing democracy. Entitled the “Local government employer mandate prohibition act,” this bill would block cities and towns from enacting any ordinances requiring developers to negotiate what are called “Community Benefit Agreements” with local residents and businesses. This would also stop cities and towns from taking any actions that addressed wages or benefits, a clear step aimed at derailing efforts to raise the minimum wage.

Introduced by a Republican legislator, the bill targets Detroit,” but what becomes clear is that this legislation has a potential impact way beyond Detroit.  Essentially, such a statute would stop towns and cities from being able to take any meaningful steps to improve the lives of its workers. All such power would be invested in the state legislature.

What is remarkable about legislation of this type is that it originates from a political party that spouts platitudes about local control but is now prepared to usurp all power from the institutions that are closest to the public. Such cynical moves, along with efforts to undermine labor unions–such as the spread of so-called “right to work” laws–are directed at weakening the position and strength of working people.  In order to carry out this assault, the Republican cabal is prepared to overturn democracy.

This legislation will be an interesting test case for racial politics. To the extent to which the Republicans are able to convince the rest of Michigan that this legislation is only aimed at reining in Detroit [read this as Black people], they may be able to pull it off.  On the other hand, should the rest of Michigan awaken and realize that these efforts could have a catastrophic impact on working people throughout Michigan, this subtle coup could backfire.  After all, if the right of cities and town to take such actions is seized by the state legislature, where does it end?

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is the host of The Global African on Telesur-English.  He is a racial justice, labor and global justice activist and writer.  Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and at www.billfletcherjr.com

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Bill Fletcher Jr.

Bill Fletcher Jr has been an activist since his teen years. Upon graduating from college he went to work as a welder in a shipyard, thereby entering the labor movement. Over the years he has been active in workplace and community struggles as well as electoral campaigns. He has worked for several labor unions in addition to serving as a senior staffperson in the national AFL-CIO. Fletcher is the former president of TransAfrica Forum; a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies; an editorial board member of BlackCommentator.com; and in the leadership of several other projects. Fletcher is the co-author (with Peter Agard) of “The Indispensable Ally: Black Workers and the Formation of the Congress of Industrial Organizations, 1934-1941”; the co-author (with Dr. Fernando Gapasin) of “Solidarity Divided: The crisis in organized labor and a new path toward social justice“; and the author of “‘They’re Bankrupting Us’ – And Twenty other myths about unions.” Fletcher is a syndicated columnist and a regular media commentator on television, radio and the Web.

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