TIM SKUBICK: Both sides debate Right-To-Work, one year later

You seldom, if ever, think your life may be in danger when you head to the state Capitol. But such was not the case on Dec. 11, 2012.

The one year anniversary of Right to Work came and went on Wednesday without fanfare, but a year ago as the morning sun came up, it was unclear what the day would hold.

With 12,000 demonstrators, 500 state troopers and six mounted sheriffs keeping an eye on them and emotions running high inside the building, the only thing that happened was passage of the law. There was some pushing and shoving, a few arrests and minor damage, but no outbreak of violence.

The massive demonstration in which labor lost and business won is now a memory, but the heated debate over what the law has done is enjoined anew.

“The governor and his cohorts promised this avalanche of jobs coming to Michigan. In fact the unemployment is higher today then it was a year ago at this time,” complains Rep. Brandon Dillon (D-Grand Rapids) who was one of the more vocal opponents during the house debate last year.

“I think that’s a relatively shallow argument,” retorts the senate GOP leader Randy Richardville (R-Monroe.) He and the bill’s sponsor Rep. Mike Shirkey (R-Clark Lake) suggest you can’t judge the impact based on one year’s worth of data.

Well as far as the governor is concerned there is no hard data on whether the law has created one or 5 million jobs. When he signed the measure, he touted the fact that Indiana used the law to create more than 30,000 jobs.

So Mr. Governor what is the number here? He demurs. “That’s a tough number to quantify” but nonetheless based on comments from sight selection sources, he’s confident it is working.

One wonders why Indiana could find a formula to figure this out and why Michigan can’t? The skeptics might argue, this governor doesn’t want to know the number for fear it might be too low. Hence ignorance is bliss.

He explains the number is illusive because companies embracing RTW would not acknowledge it because they might be targeted with protests.

Fair enough but couldn’t the state ask anyway and promise not to release the name of the firm just so some raw data could be gathered?

Rep. Shirkey concedes, “We have the data to indicate that it works; to prove it is a different story. These kind of investments take a long time.”

The House Democratic leader objects, “We know that in states that have Right to Work, it doesn’t create jobs, it lowers wages and it weakens benefits while eroding work place safety protection.” That from Rep. Tim Greimel (D-Oakland County.)

Somebody could argue that without RTW, the state’s jobless rate might be even higher. Mr. Greimel scoffs at that, too. They “can engage in whatever intellectual gymnastics” they want to, it still doesn’t work.

The governor’s lobbyist Dick Posthumus offers, “We’re being rated as the fourth best state in the country in terms of job creation. … See what it is nationwide. We’re doing very well in Michigan.”

Democrats can jump all over that pointing to the state’s ranking as the third worse state in the nation on the jobless front.

So while both sides engage in what will be an endless back and forth over the impact of the law, one thing is for sure, they will never agree that the other guy is right, which is exactly what happened on Dec. 11, 2012.