President Obama slammed Michigan’s pending right-to-work legislation during a Monday address at a Detroit-area auto factory.
“These so called right-to-work laws, they don’t have to do with economics,” he said during a visit to the Daimler Detroit Diesel plant in Redford, Mich. “They have everything to do with politics. What they’re really talking about is giving you the right to work for less money.”
The bills at issue were pushed through the state’s legislature on Thursday, though formal approval will occur on Tuesday. Last week, the White House reiterated the president’s opposition to right-to-work laws in a statement, saying, “The president believes our economy is stronger when workers get good wages and good benefits, and he opposes attempts to roll back their rights.”
Labor unions and activists have frequently deployed the “right-to-work for less” line when combating right-to-work legislation in various states. And indeed, research by the labor-affiliated Economic Policy Institute suggests that right-to-work states have 3.2% lower wages for all workers than non-right-to-work states.
Obama’s criticism of the legislation—which could severely weaken the labor movement in an historic union stronghold—comes during a period of pronounced cooperation between the White House and some of the largest labor unions. On the same day which Obama made his remarks, major unions such as SEIU, AFSCME, NEA and AFL-CIO staged a nationwide day of action in defense of preserving the social safety net and tax cuts for the middle class during the fiscal cliff negotiations.
Republican governor Rick Snyder, who has vowed to sign Michigan’s right-to-work legislation into law, greeted President Obama at the airport when he arrived in the state earlier that day.