• Latest News
  • Pitch a Story
  • Work with a Journalist
  • Join the Blog Squad
  • Afghanistan
  • Africa
  • Asia
  • Baltimore
  • Canada
  • Egypt
  • Europe
  • Latin America
  • Middle East
  • Russia
  • Economy
  • Environment
  • Health Care
  • Military
  • Occupy
  • Organize This
  • Reality Asserts Itself
  • US Politics
  • Class War in Michigan

    Frank Hammer: GOP Governor and State legislature pass law weakening union rights -   December 11, 2012
    Members don't see ads. If you are a member, and you're seeing this appeal, click here


    Share to Facebook Share to Twitter

    Understanding info is a powerful thing. Thank you to all of your reporters for making a significant difference. - Nancy SmithEaken
    Log in and tell us why you support TRNN


    Frank Hammer is a retired General Motors employee and former President and Chairman of Local 909 in Warren, Michigan. He now organizes with the Auto Worker Caravan, an association of active and retired auto workers who advocate for workers demands in Washington.


    Class War in MichiganPAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Paul Jay in Baltimore. And welcome to this week's edition of The Hammer Report with Frank Hammer.

    Frank is a longtime trade unionist. He's also an adjunct faculty member in labor studies at the University of Indiana and Wayne State University, former president of the United Auto Workers local at the GM Powertrain plant in Warren, Michigan. Thanks for joining us, Frank.


    JAY: So lots happening in Michigan. What are you going to start with?

    HAMMER: Oh, we're having an all-out assault on Michigan's working class. We're having an all-out assault on the urban centers in Michigan. We're having an all-out assault on education. It's a general—if there was ever talk about class warfare, we are seeing class warfare.

    JAY: Alright. Well, start with the legislation that's—may even be passed this week, if I understand it correctly.

    HAMMER: It will likely be passed as soon as tomorrow, unless thousands and thousands and thousands of people are going to be in Lansing there to protest its passage. And I know that President Obama is at this moment speaking at a diesel plant.

    JAY: Okay. Just to be clear on our days, we're recording this on Monday, so when you say "tomorrow", you mean Tuesday. But people are likely going to be watching this on Tuesday. So we'll say today, 'cause—. Anyway, Tuesday is when the big protest is coming, and you think that it's going to be [crosstalk]

    HAMMER: Tomorrow, unionists will be turning out from all over the state, and their supporters, in Lansing tomorrow, because tomorrow is when it looks like the Senate, I think, will pass its version, or if they've already passed their versions, they will reconcile them and get them to the governor's desk in a real—you've never seen government work so fast, actually.

    JAY: So what's—first of all, what is in this legislation that's so objectionable?

    HAMMER: The legislation will require employers to get rid of their contractual agreements that provide for required membership in the union at a particular business location, so that—it's called the union security clause, and it stipulates that if you're enjoying the benefits of union representation, that currently you're obligated to be a member, and you're obligated to pay at least that portion of your dues that pay for the representational services that your union provides. That is now—by the virtue of this law, is going to be declared voluntary, meaning that even though I may benefit from my union contracts and my union representation, that I don't have to pay for it. I can—.

    JAY: Well, isn't there a counterargument to this, in this sense, is why shouldn't unions be able to get voluntary contributions from members? And if they can't, does it mean that the members are feeling that the unions aren't doing a very good job?

    HAMMER: Well, there's definitely two sides to this coin. It used to be, once upon a time, that the representation in a plant, the representatives, the plant representatives, would actually have to go around and collect dues every month. That used to be our history. And as you can imagine, that's very timestaking and so on. But the benefit of it was that it certainly kept the representatives close to the rank-and-file, and you had to be able to get that voluntary support.

    And then it went to a system-of-dues check-off, which provided for the employer to automatically collect the dues and send them over to the union, so the union could continue to receive dues income without the necessity of going out and soliciting union dues on a routine basis. So the downside, of course, is that once you have this dues check-off, it's inherent in that system to begin to take the membership for granted and their loyalties for granted. And various unions have done that to one extent or another. I've certainly seen it done in my own union. And sure enough, over the weekend on some of the talk shows you had UAW members on a talk show saying, you know, I think this is right because this gives us more control of the union and whether it represents us or not.

    And of course the employers are exploiting that sentiment. But they don't really care whether the union is really servicing the workers or not. They're basically out to reduce its power, and this is the way they're doing it. And they're doing it drawing on the sentiments of workers who feel that the union leaderships more often than not take them for granted and don't really make it a union of, by, and for the membership.

    JAY: Now, how does it get to a situation where a state like Michigan, where—you know, almost the home of modern industrial unionism, that unions are so weak that they can't resist this?

    HAMMER: Well, we're the—apparently, we're the fifth-highest unionized state in the U.S., so yeah. And they're saying, you know, if you can pass right-to-work in Michigan, then there's no state that's safe. I think that historically speaking—I can only speak, mostly, for the auto industry—that what once used to be a very muscular UAW that had 1.5 million members nationwide today has been reduced to less than 400,000. And unfortunately, the unions—my union still acts as if it's 1.5 million members, but it's actually 400,000. So the power is no longer there, and it has to—they're faced with the task of rebuilding this power to slip through our hands. How has that slipped?

    JAY: Well, no, let me ask, how is this legislation going to affect the autoworkers union?

    HAMMER: Well, the way it's going to work: first of all, if it's passed, it will go into effect next March. The current contractual agreements are grandfathered, so that for autoworkers, for example, at the Big Three, our next agreement will be opened up in 2015. So for the next few years you will not see any effect at all. Other contracts (for example, at parts suppliers and so on) that expire between now and then, each time a contract expires, the new contract that takes its place will remove that feature of the union security clause. So it'll be—you won't see it overnight; it'll be gradual. And in the case of the Big Three, we'll see [incompr.] only having its impact in 2015.

    JAY: And how much is this [incompr.] targeting public sector workers?

    HAMMER: There's legislation for both the private sector and for the public sector. The only unions that are exempted from this change are the firemen and women and the police. All of the—.

    JAY: And in Wisconsin—. Sorry. Go ahead.

    HAMMER: No, but all other unions are subject to it, whether in private sector or in the public sector.

    JAY: Now, they tried to do that in Wisconsin, but the police union and the firemens' union actually joined the protest and said, you know, you may be exempting us. We oppose all of this. What would have been the attitude of police and firemen unions in Michigan?

    HAMMER: I'm sorry to say I'm not familiar with where their stand is right now. I don't know.

    JAY: Okay. Alright. Go on.

    HAMMER: I would hope that they would follow their wonderful example in Wisconsin, both the police department's and also of the fire union. The fireworkers union was fabulous.

    JAY: Okay. So that's what's happening on the legislative front in terms of union shops. You were saying something's happening at the level of cities and—when you were talking about class war in Michigan.

    HAMMER: Correct. The election in November 6 had a number of resolutions and proposals. And, by the way, the proposal that preceded this move to right-to-work was Proposal 2, which had attempted—the union movement in Michigan tried to place in the Constitution permanent protections for collective bargaining rights. And that was defeated 57 percent to 42 percent.

    JAY: So let's just—just to be clear on this, this was a resolution that would have strengthened trade union rigths in Michigan, and it lost. And I read an interesting statistic that apparently more people voted against this resolution than voted for Obama in Michigan, that in other words a lot of Michigan voters that voted for Obama voted against this resolution to strengthen trade union rights.

    HAMMER: Yeah. I think, if I remember, Flint and Detroit are the only locations where it was voted in support of. There are many theories about why it was rejected at the level that it was. Part of the theory holds that some of the no votes were actually people voting no on all of the proposals regardless.

    But there are in fact—I mean, one of the problems that this highlights is that even within union households there was significant opposition to Proposal 2 and to the collective bargaining being permanently entrenched into the state constitution. So it didn't have solid support within—even within union ranks.

    JAY: And why do you think that is?

    HAMMER: I think that partly it may have been viewed as an overreach by the unions, partly because maybe the notion of collective bargaining is so abstract to workers that they maybe did not understand quite how that works in our behalf, in our favor. So I think people will be getting to the bottom of that over this next few months, because I think that's an alarming statistic, that not even—that barely a majority of union households supported it.

    So to come back to the other question that you asked about the cities, in that same set of elections, in the proposals, there was also a proposal that won that overturned a particularly draconian law enabling the state government to impose emergency managers, emergency financial managers, over the cities that are in financial difficulty. What it turns out is that the cities in question now where this was imposed—and, by the way, this was also imposed on educational systems, but in—the cities that it was imposed on are all majority-black cities—Benton Harbor, Pontiac, Detroit (that is to give you three examples). And there was a tremendous effort, grassroots effort, to overturn the law that enabled the state government to do this. It was successful. And sure enough, within a matter of days, the legislature, which incidentally is totally controlled by the Republicans, including the governor's office, including the Supreme Court, are now rewriting that law. And in the meantime the city of Detroit has been threatened that within 30 days we will be under an emergency manager, which here in the neighborhoods we're calling emergency dictatorship law.

    JAY: So in spite of this opposition, they're just passing another piece of legislation to do it.

    HAMMER: Correct [incompr.] defying the will of the people. And I just want to point out that none of this sounds very ordinary or normal to me. The state, in passing these right-to-work legislation (I'm going back to that), they did it within a day, and the customary hearings and debates and discussion is all thrown out the window. And there was such a stealth operation that attached to the legislation for the right to work is an appropriations section. And what they did by attaching an appropriations item onto the bill is it makes it—it shields it from being overturned into a public referendum. So not only are they saying, oh, you're really going to like this, but we're going to make sure you like it, because we're going to make sure that you can't undo it. And—.

    JAY: Alright.

    HAMMER: Go ahead.

    JAY: Sorry. Finish off, Frank.

    HAMMER: It was such a stealth operation that they actually had big tents for Americans for Prosperity—a Koch-supported group, I believe—filled the galleries in the chambers where these legislation was being enacted, so that no opposition could appear in the public galleries to express their dissent.

    JAY: Okay. Well, we're going to continue doing regular reports with Frank on class war in Michigan. Maybe that's what we should call your segments, Frank. Thanks for joining us.

    HAMMER: Thank you, Paul.

    JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network. And if you want to see more work like this, please click on the Donate button. We're in a matching-grant campaign. Every $1 you donate gets matched till we hit $150,000. Thanks for joining us on The Real News Network.


    DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.


    Our automatic spam filter blocks comments with multiple links and multiple users using the same IP address. Please make thoughtful comments with minimal links using only one user name. If you think your comment has been mistakenly removed please email us at


    Latest Stories

    The Modern History of Venezuela and Popular Democracy - Edgardo Lander on RAI (9/9)
    Obama's Wrong Headed Approach To China
    Assessing the U.S. Environmental Movement on Earth Day 2014
    UAW Case Shows Weakness of Labor Law
    Exclusive Investigation Uncovers How BP Uses Bribes To Do Business
    The Modern History of Venezuela, The Protests and Democracy - Edgardo Lander on RAI (8/9)
    Greek Politics 4 Years After The Financial Crisis
    CBO Report Confirms U.S. Deficit Back to Normal Level
    Israel Uses Refugees as "Currency" in Arms Trade with Africa
    Who Will Pay for Climate Change Disaster?
    Canada Shifts to Right Under Harper, Mimicking the United States
    The Savings and Loan Crisis Demonstrates the Importance of Glass-Steagall
    South African Platinum Miner's Struggle Challenges ANC Leadership
    TRNN Original Report: Manning Determined to Fight Back After Army Upholds 35- Year Sentence
    Hundredth Anniversary of the Ludlow Massacre
    The Bundy Ranch Standoff Demonstrates Values Shared by Corporations and the Far Right
    The Resegregation of American Schools
    The Modern History of Venezuela, Why Still So Much Crime? - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (7/9)
    What Role Has Russia Played in Eastern Ukraine?
    Can Johns Hopkins Afford to Pay A Living Wage? (2/2)
    University Sit-In Targets World's Largest Private Coal Company
    The Modern History of Venezuela and the Need for a Post-Oil Economy - Edgardo Lander on RAI (6/9)
    Can Johns Hopkins Afford to Pay A Living Wage? (1/2)
    One Percent of Environmentalists Killings Lead to Convictions
    Investigation Finds Former Ukraine President Not Responsible For Sniper Attack on Protestors
    The Modern History of Venezuela from 1973 to the Caracazo Massacre - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (3/9)
    Ukraine Transitional Gov't Moves Militarily To Reclaim Seized Buildings
    IPCC Report Flawed By Narrow Focus on Carbon Emissions
    The Modern History of Venezuela: The Bolivarian Revolution - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (5/9)
    Obama Signs Directives to Reduce the Gender Wage Gap
    Eastern Ukraine Lacks Political Representation in Kiev
    Demystifying the Role of Mitigation in the Most Recent IPCC Report
    Hypersurveillance State Won't Prevent Another Boston Marathon Bombing
    The Modern History of Venezuela from 1973 to the Caracazo Massacre - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (3/9)
    Univ. of Maine Faculty Reinstated After Students Protest Against Cuts
    The Modern History of Venezuela from 1908 to 1973 - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (2/9)
    IMF Will Address Global Inequality, Says Managing Director Christine Lagarde
    Raising Big Banks' Leverage Ratio Good, But Not Nearly Enough
    TRNN Replay: Austerity Road to 19th Century
    Has Palestinian Maneuvering Revived Peace Talks?
    Late Jackson Mayor Lumumba's Son Wins Primary to Replace His Father, Runoff Election Ahead
    Quebecers Reject PQ and Elect a Liberal Government Representing Big Business
    TRNN Debate: Decriminalization vs. Legalization
    The Beginning of the Chavez Era - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (4/9)
    "Off With His Head": Court Upholds Obama's Power to Kill
    Workers at Nation's Top Hospital Strike For Fair Wages
    From Exile to Radicalization in Venezuela - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (1/9)
    Rwanda 20 Years Later: Genocide, Western Plunder of Congo, and President Kagame
    Ukrainian Protesters in the East Demand More Autonomy From Kiev Government
    Hunger Strikers Demand President Obama Halt His Record 2 Million Deportations
    Indian Parliamentary Elections - A Primer With Vijay Prashad
    West Looks to Carve Up Ukraine & Privatize Industries Held by Kleptocrats
    Where Are Israeli-Palestinian Peace Negotiations Headed?
    The Multiple Kingdoms of Saudi Arabia (5/5)
    Do the Afghan Presidential Elections Signify Progress?
    Republican Presidential Hopefuls Pay Homage to Billionaire Casino Tycoon Sheldon Adelson
    Will Extremist Lieberman Become Israel's Next Prime Minister?
    Why do the Saudis Want the US to Attack Iran? (4/5)
    Immigrant Advocates and Families Tell President Obama 'Not One More'
    Elections, Pipelines, and Protests - The Canada Panel
    Chris Hedges on "Israel's War on American Universities"
    Baltimore Residents Decry Lack of Affordable Housing
    Yellen Talks the Talk But Will She Walk the Walk?
    Hopkins Hospital Workers Speak Out against "Poverty Wages"
    Will Venezuela's New Floating Exchange Rate Curb Inflation?
    The European Central Bank's War on Wages is Pushing Europe's Economy to the Brink
    Supreme Court Decision Opens Floodgates for More Campaign Cash
    Charles Keating, the Financier Behind the Savings and Loan Scandal, Dies at 90
    Saudi Arabia and the al-Qaeda Monster (3/5)
    Maryland Residents Voice Opposition to Natural Gas Fracking Export Facility
    Supreme Court Ruling Gives Wealthy Individuals More Influence Over Elections
    What are the Saudis Afraid Of? - Madawi Al-Rasheed (2/5)
    Baltimore's MICA Adjunct Professors Set to Vote on Unionization
    Boycott of Israel Moving to Next Level?
    Hypocrisy Dressed Up as "Realism" Justifies American Alliance with Saudi Dictatorship
    Immigration Reform in the Shadows of Cesar Chavez's Legacy
    Leaked Senate Report Shows Use of Torture As "Ineffective"
    UN Report Says Climate Change Will Threaten Food Production Worldwide
    The Hypocrisy of US Calling for Enforcement of International Law
    How the Ecuadorian Economy Grew in a Global Recession
    'Shadows of Liberty' Trailer
    Kristina Borjesson on Why CBS Shut Down Her investigation into Flight 800 (2/8)
    Glen Ford on Racism in the American Media (3/8)
    Paul Jay on What Drives Corporate Media and What Drive The Real News (4/8)
    Creating a New Media Paradigm After Citizens United (5/8)
    Should The Left Engage with the Mainstream Media? (6/8)
    What Is the Financial Backing For The Real News? (7/8)
    Standing up to Character Assassination (8/8)
    Oligarchs, Fascists and the People's Protest in Ukraine
    TRNN Debate: Is Obamacare In the Interest of Workers?
    Too-Big-To-Fail Advantage Remains Intact For Big Banks
    Obama and the Saudi Agenda
    TRNN Replay: Investigating the Saudi Government's 9/11 Connection and the Path to Disilliusionment - Sen. Graham on Reality Asserts Itself pt 1
    The Iraq War's Real Legacy
    Petitions with 100,000+ Signatures Call for Snowden's Passport to be Reinstated
    We Need to Harness People Power - Andy Shallal on Reality Asserts Itself (4/4)
    BC Pipeline Fight and Quebec Elections - The Canada Panel
    Jonathan Schell - 1943-2014: Board Member of TRNN on Why We Need The Real News
    Teachers on Strike from the UK to Argentina
    Connecticut Poised to Become First State with $10.10 Minimum Wage
    Oil Spill Threatens Wildlife and Local Economy
    DC School Test Scores Up, But Poor Black Kids Are Doing Worse - Andy Shallal on RAI (3/4)
    Obama's Proposal To End NSA Bulk Data Collection Won't Protect Privacy
    How Google, Apple & The Biggest Tech Companies Colluded to Fix Workers' Wages
    An American Should be One that Questions Their Government - Andy Shallal on RAI (2/4)
    What's Driving Putin & Obama's Posturing on Ukraine?
    Hundreds of Students & Faculty Occupy College Campus to Fight Cuts to Public Higher Ed
    Due Process 'Impossible' In Harsh Death Sentencing Of Over 500 Muslim Brotherhood Members
    Has Anglo-American Capitalism Run Out of Steam?
    Being the "Other" in America - Andy Shallal on Reality Asserts Itself (1/4)
    TRNN Debate: Should Baltimore 'Ban The Box'?
    How Fallujah Became the Iraqi Government's New Battleground
    Why I Decided to Blow the Whistle on the NSA
    NASA Climate Predictions Show Serious Threat To Humanity
    Professor Who Teaches Israel-Palestine Conflict Accuses College of Violating His Academic Freedom
    CIA and NSA Wrongdoing Requires Independent Investigation, Says Former Church Committee Staff
    Are Tuition Breaks Enough To Combat High Student Debt And Low Graduation Rates?
    Industries Across the U.S. Are Stealing Wages From Their Lowest Paid Workers
    Who In Ukraine Will Benefit From An IMF Bailout?
    NSA Recording All International Calls From U.S.
    Israel "Making Lives Miserable" for Africans, Hoping They 'Self-Deport' (2/2)
    BP Gets Green Light to Drill in Gulf, But Has Safety Improved?
    Residents Still Not Drinking Tap Water Two Months After West Virginia Spill (1/2)
    Libya's Descent Into Turmoil Three Years After NATO Intervention
    From Pipelines to Peladeau - Canadian Report
    Israel "Making Lives Miserable" for Africans, Hoping They 'Self-Deport' (1/2)
    Congressional Progressive Caucus Budget Strikes Back Against Austerity
    Libya Three Years Later - Chaos and Partition
    Why Was Gaddafi Overthrown?
    Should Ukraine and West Accept De Facto Crimea Joining Russia? (2/2)
    Tony Benn Saw Socialism as the Culmination of Democratization
    Why Didn't Bush/Cheney Attack Iran and Can Obama Make and Sell a Deal? - Gareth Porter on Reality Asserts Itself (3/3)
    After Late Mayor Lumumba is Laid to Rest, What's Next for Jackson, Mississippi? (2/2)
    Crimea Referendum: Self Determination or Big Power Manipulation? (1/2)
    Sen. Graham: President Must Side with Openness About CIA and 9/11
    Manufacturing a Narrative for War - Gareth Porter on Reality Asserts Itself (2/3)
    Protesters Hit the Streets of Brooklyn to Demand $15 Minimum Wage
    Hammer: 'Moral Bankruptcy' Behind Massive GM Recall
    White House Withholds Thousands of Documents from Senate CIA Probe
    I Grew Up Believing in Time Magazine's Version of America - Gareth Porter on RAI (1/3)
    Western European Banks Vulnerable to Ukrainian Sovereign Debt Crisis
    TRNN Debate: What's Driving Inflation in Venezuela? (2/2)
    CIA vs. Senate: Who Is Obama Protecting?
    Will Tipped Workers Get Excluded Again From Minimum Wage Hike?
    TRNN Debate: What's Driving Inflation in Venezuela? (1/2)
    After Late Mayor Lumumba is Laid to Rest, What's Next for Jackson, Mississippi?(1/2)
    TRNN Replay: A Look at Who's Poised to Become No.2 at the Fed
    How Right-Wing Nationalism Rose to Influence in Ukraine (2/2)
    Netanyahu Attacks Boycott As Campaign Enters New Phase
    Moving Towards a Police State - Michael Ratner on Reality Asserts Itself (7/7)
    Fighting Reagan's Secret, Illegal Wars - Michael Ratner on Reality Asserts Itself (6/7)
    Puerto Rican Independence Movement and Cuba Further Radicalized Me - Michael Ratner on RAI (5/7)
    The Butcher of Attica - Michael Ratner on Reality Asserts Itself (4/7)
    MLK and a Radicalizing Moment in American History - Michael Ratner on Reality Asserts Itself (3/7), Real News Network, Real News, Real News For Real People, IWT are trademarks and service marks of IWT.TV inc. "The Real News" is the flagship show of IWT and Real News Network.

    All original content on this site is copyright of The Real News Network.  Click here for more

    Problems with this site? Please let us know

    Linux VPS Hosting by Star Dot Hosting