Monday, December 10, 2012

Why did MI exclude Police and Fire unions from Right to Work?

The Michigan GOP Legislature and Rick Snyder will need to twist into pretzels to explain why Right to Work legislation excludes police and fire fighter unions.   Here are some examples of attempts to do so..

Lansing State Journal: Right-to-work bill exempts police and fire unions
Republican Gov. Rick Snyder said Thursday the exemption is meant to respect the “unique circumstance” police officers and firefighters are in because of the “dangerous nature of their work.
But critics say the exception will create class warfare among public employees and it leaves out other dangerous occupations, particularly corrections officers in the state’s prison system.

Detroit News: GOP defends right-to-work exclusion of cop, fire unions

They also expressed concerns about creating divisions within the paramilitary ranks of first responders who rely on each other in life-and-death situations...
In arguing for a right-to-work law, Snyder and GOP leaders acknowledged it could create divisions in firehouses and police departments if union membership or fees was optional — as will become the case for all other unionized workplaces when Snyder signs the bill.
"These are men and women who must respond and rely on each other in ways no other union must," said Speaker Pro-tem John Walsh, R-Livonia...

..Another reason cited: Republican legislators get fewer complaints about the political activities of police and firefighter union leadership than others who, for instance, represent unions with ties to the Democratic Party.
 "I know a lot of people in both organizations, and they're happy with how their unions treat them. They're not clamoring for choice," said state Rep. Jeff Farrington, R-Utica.

That is some really weak tea there, none of it means anything, it's all just mush.   But even so, when asked why those exclusions don't apply to unions that represent prison guards, the answer is downright laughable.
..Some rank-and-file GOP lawmakers said there are other reasons why police and firefighters are getting a better deal than their union brethren who work in other dangerous jobs in prisons, construction and utilities.
"They behave more like value-adding trade associations than unions," said state Rep. Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, the leading advocate for the drive to make Michigan the 24th right-to-work state...
He can't actually be trying to say that unions representing prison guards behave more like trade associations than unions?  Trade associations are organizations that represent their industry at large, promoting cooperation and standardization between businesses and attracting customers and new business opportunities.  If there is a prison industry trade association it isn't there to represent the rights of the workers.  

Perhaps Shirkey meant to compare them to trade unions and not trade associations?  But, if so, he is essentially saying that prison guards are pretty much just like plumbers with a different toolbox.  Neither explanation is a good one.

Further, are police and fire truly the most dangerous occupations and regardless are they the only ones in which co-workers must rely on each other for safety and protection?  

Perhaps the explanation is that the GOP is exhibiting the soft prejudice of lowered expectations for police and fire fighters.  The message is that all the other unions will work it out and not let divisions between employees affect job performance or safety but the same can't be assumed for police and fire fighters so they need special privileges to keep them from squabbling.  This is stunning hypocrisy from Rick Snyder and his Tea Party legislature.

Here is a chart of workplace related fatalities in Michigan.
Tracking Acute Traumatic Work-Related Deaths in Michigan 

Here is some information about law enforcement fatalities.
Number of police fatalities up in 2011; Michigan saw five die in the line of duty

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