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Michigan Unions Press Forward in Right-to-Work Battle

Michigan’s unions are not taking their election defeats lying down. After their state—formerly the heart of union power in America—passed a right-to-work law last year, unions have been fighting tooth and nail to stop the law from going into effect. Earlier this month, a number of public unions signed long-term contracts with their employers, locking them into the current system for nearly a decade. But even if these measures stand, this is only a temporary respite from the inevitable pain to come.

The unions are well aware of this, and are now looking to challenge the law itself in the 2014 elections. As the Financial Times notes, the unions see an opening: Republican Governor Rick Snyder saw his popularity plummet after signing the law, with his approval ratings from 47 percent to 38 percent in one week. He now trails all of his likely Democratic challengers in the polls, and the law itself is unpopular as well, with only 39 percent support. Given these numbers, the unions are promising to make the law a central issue in next year’s election:

“Working people will certainly organise around the 2014 elections, inspired by the promise of new leaders and new legislation,” said Karla Swift, AFL-CIO president.

Rudy Hobbs, a Democratic leader in the House, said his party would also keep the issue alive.

“We’ll have to see what that political fallout will be for Snyder as he looks to his re-election, but I plan on never letting folks forget about it,” Mr Hobbs said.

The fight over right to work laws has see-sawed back and forth in the Middle West. In Indiana and Wisconsin, labor has suffered serious setbacks. In Ohio, voters rejected tough GOP proposals at the ballot box.

It’s still too soon to tell what will happen in Michigan. Voters have pushed back against some Republican measures there, forcing the state to rewrite its plans to install emergency managers in troubled cities. And unions are a big part of the state’s heritage. But passage of a right to work law in Michigan is news that has already echoed around the country; if voters uphold the law, the blue social model will have sustained a crippling blow.

Update: An earlier version of this post listed the Michigan Governor’s name as Dan Snyder. His name is Rick Snyder.

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