The labor movement has a rich history in the state of Michigan. On Tuesday that history was dealt a major blow. The Michigan legislature rammed through and the Governor signed “freedom to work” (freedom to freeload) legislation into law. No committee hearings, no public debate, lock the doors to the capital and hide behind the heavily guarded doors and pass whatever laws you can during a lame duck session. Frightening!
For those of us that spent several days chanting, singing, making phone calls, meeting with our legislators and planning the rally that brought nearly 20,000 workers to the steps of and inside the capital; it is almost enough to make us want to give up.
(Left-UAW Vice President Cindy Estrada is interviewed; right-Greater Lansing LCLAA Vice President Michael Huerta protesting at the Michigan state capital)
We in the labor movement have a habit of losing perspective. We often forget the long hours and hard work that made our victories possible. Can you imagine a world in which Dr. King had given up after the first time he met opposition?
Can you imagine a world in which Cesar Chavez and the UFW’s demands weren't met they gave up during the grape boycotts? (the boycott lasted 10 years)
Can you imagine a world where Owen Beiber, of the UAW, had never pressured the Apartheid regime in South Africa to release Nelson Mandella or had given up the first time he was rebuffed?
Can you imagine a world without child labor laws, safety standards, Civil Rights, human rights and workers’ rights? We are a part of something much bigger than we imagine. We are a part of a movement. Our struggles will continue long after we are gone and they began long before we were born. Our rich legacy that provided us with the labor laws, workplace safety, vacations, benefits and wages demands that we continue to fight. We must also remember that we forge the legacy that future generations will battle to keep. As Dr. King reminded us “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” We must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and continue the work of the labor movement. Temporary setbacks are just that – temporary. The long lists of contributions from labor to the world were all earned through hard work, long battles and patience. It is our responsibility to continue these struggles - this is the cost of our legacy!
Michigan Right to Work Rally in front of State Capitol.