REDFORD, Mich. — With thousands of protesters expected to descend on the State Capitol on Tuesday, President Barack Obama entered into the fray surrounding Michigan’s contentious battle over right-to-work legislation during remarks at the Detroit Diesel Plant here on Monday.
Obama, speaking before several hundred UAW workers as well as many members of the Michigan Democratic Congressional delegation, chastised Republican Gov. Rick Snyder and other Michigan Republicans for championing the recent right-to-work bills. If signed by Snyder — which is expected to occur on Tuesday — the legislation would make union due payments voluntary for private and most public-sector unions.
“What we shouldn’t be doing is trying to take away your rights to bargain for better wages,” Obama said to enthusiastic applause. “These so called right-to-work laws have nothing to do with economics, they have everything to do with politics.”
Obama pointed to Michigan’s automotive unions as representative of the importance of collective bargaining in the formation of the middle class and the success of the larger United States, and he said state and national representatives should be fighting to preserve the process.
“What they’re really talking about is giving you the right to work for less money,” the president said. “America’s not going to compete based on low-skill, low-wage, no worker’s rights — that’s not our competitive advantage.”
that right now.”
“Tell it to Snyder,” a UAW worker yelled to an approving crowd as Obama described how America would be better off when workers were able to afford the products they produced.
Obama toured the plant before his speech, during which he discussed the rebirth of the auto industry and the necessity of a strong middle class.
His remarks were intended to address the looming fiscal cliff and the possible tax increases Americans family may face should he and Congress not come to a consensus on the spending cuts and additional budget deficit measures needed before the end of the year. The President said Congress must pass a law to prevent a tax increase on the first $250,000 of every American’s income.
“That means 98 percent of Americans … and 97 percent of small businesses wouldn’t see their income taxes go up a single dime,” the president said. “Congress can do
He said he is willing to work with Republicans in Congress on a plan to reduce the deficit, but is not willing to forfeit investments in education, infrastructure improvements, or research and development.
“Our success as a country in this century will be defined by how well we educate our kids, how well we train our workers, how well we invent, how well we innovate,” he said. “That’s how you bring good jobs back to Detroit.”
After the speech, State Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D–Detroit) said the president’s remarks about unions and the right-to-work legislation was “on-point.” She said the actions taken — or not taken — by her Republican colleagues in the Legislature to pass the laws so quickly seemed undemocratic.
“It’s absolutely destructive,” Tlaib said of the legislation. “To think that some of the reasons that they’re using to pass this through so quickly is absolutely unbelievable.”
Maxine Graff-Goodman, a resident of Farmington Hills, Mich., said though she and her husband are not union members, they came to show support for the President and the rest of the UAW.
“We think that we won the election, it’s time for the Republicans to realize that,” Graff-Goodman said. “If we’re going to move this economy forward, we need to take steps in the right direction to do that.”
—Follow Alicia on Twitter at @aliciaadamczyk