Saturday, December 8, 2012

A "Tahrir moment" in Michigan?

Thursday the Michigan State House and Senate passed "Right to Work " legislation despite howls of protest over procedure and a massive last minute mobilization by Michigan labor. Since the House and Senate passed different versions the differences must be reconciled and voted on be both houses. If were hiding under a rock yesterday here is the quick and dirty from Working America's blog Main Street.

Union members pack the Michigan capitol on Thursday
Passing "Right to Work" for less legislation in Michigan is further confirmation that the "War on Workers" that started after the 2010 election did not end  with the re-election of President Obama. Those ideologically anti-worker majority legislatures and Governors elected in 2010 that remained in place after this election cycle still hold in their hands the same plans ALEC handed them two years ago. Those chambers that have shifted back toward being less hostile to workers this election are busy ramming through their agenda in the remaining "lame duck" session.

Labor now faces another attempt to cut us off at the knees. Already the cries of "We'll remember in November!" ring out from the ranks of our members packing the Michigan Capitol.There are five days before another vote can be taken on "Right to Work" for less.

Five days is a lifetime in movement politics.

 Where we have failed to defeat these attacks generally it has been because our enemies had generally been more determined than us to win. They have been willing to lie, cheat, steal, and suppress to achieve their agenda. This was true in Wisconsin , Indiana, and Florida and it is true today. Legal challenges notwithstanding, they beat us because they were willing to impose their will on us no matter the cost.

They DID NOT beat us because we didn't mobilize. Incredible mobilizations were carried out in every state where we were attacked, most dramatically in Wisconsin where the capitol was occupied by thousands for a few weeks. We fought hard. But when push came to shove we as a movement choked when the question was called whether we would take the fight to the next level. Obviously some will disagree with me on this assessment, but the fact remains that labor was not only politically defeated we were also outmaneuvered by our opponent's intransigence and political will.

Things are different now. We have contemporary examples of how people can take action to force the hands of those in power and win despite the odds not being in our favor.

Not long after the fights in Ohio and Wisconsin, the people of the Middle East rose up in massive mobilizations against corrupt, authoritarian regimes. In Egypt this culminated in the occupation of Tahrir square in Cairo where sustained demonstrations brought down the Mubarak regime.

Beginning with Occupy Wall Street, occupations of public spread to numerous cities in the U.S. emulating not only Tahrir Square but also the movements for Democracy and against corporate power in countries around the world. The images of these movements are now etched into American consciousness and direct action now carries a legitimacy that would not have been possible before.

Michigan union members and supporters meet to plan civil disobedience
Obviously a titanic amount of mobilization will be required to stop this bill. Mobilizing sufficient social power to put a halt to the legislative process is a tall order, but not impossible.Thankfully plans for such actions seem to be taking place this weekend.
 The number one thing that MUST happen is for people to stop saying we will wait "four more years" to repeal this bill. Winning requires actually believing in your ability to win. The people of Michigan CAN win this fight. My thoughts and prayers are with them as they plan for the fight of their lives.

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