The day after Michigan’s legislature held an abrupt vote on right-to-work legislation, United Auto Workers President Bob King blamed the influence of the Koch brothers, Charles and David, as well as “the extreme right wing.”
“In the end, [Michigan businessman] Dick Devos and the extreme right-wing control what’s going on in the state,” King told Detroit radio station WDET. “And the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity was in there, and there was a lot of money all pushing for the passage of this legislation, threatening the governor, threatening the different representatives.”
King also said that Republican legislators had been bullied into voting for the bill. “The stories we were told by Republicans, who I’m sure won’t admit to it publicly…was that they were threatened, that they would have a primary challenge from the Tea Party.” He suggested that the same threats had been made against Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, who recently announced his support for a state right-to-work law after previously opposing the idea.
Scott Hagerstrom, the state director for Americans for Prosperity’s Michigan operation, denied the charges, saying, “People may have done that, but that was not Americans for Prosperity.” He said that he was “surprised, but very pleased” by Thursday’s vote.
According to the non-partisan Michigan Campaign Finance Network, David Koch gave a total of $988,604.44 to the Republican Governors Association Michigan PAC in 2010, the year when Snyder was elected governor. Of the PAC’s donors, 98% were from outside Michigan. Americans for Prosperity also erected tents in front of the Michigan capitol before the right-to-work vote, and the Michigan Freedom Fund aired radio and television ads in favor of the legislation that day.
“If you do that, you’ve been planning it for a while,” said Gordon Lafer, an expert in American labor law. He said that well-funded conservative interest groups had likely been laying the groundwork for a right-to-work vote in Michigan for some time. He also said that the campaign in Michigan was part of a nationwide battle against the labor movement.
“Right-to-work bills were introduced in about 20 states in 2011 and 2012,” he said. “This is part of a campaign to get rid of unions for both economic and political reasons.”
Tune into The Ed Show at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. EST to see Lansing mayor Virg Bernero discuss the right-to-work legislation and possible influence of outside money.