Michigan and the Movement


About five years ago Missouri made history when we became the only state to successfully beat Right-to-Work on the ballot for the second time. Those of you that were around for that effort know how much it consumed our lives. Countless hard-working people as well as the entire UFCW Local 655 staff poured their heart and souls into that campaign, and it was a well-earned victory.

As historic as that moment was, it may have just been topped. On March 24, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed a law repealing the so-called ‘right-to-work’ and permanently banning the law via state constitutional amendment. This makes Michigan the first state to overturn and permanently repeal ‘right-to-work’ after it was already on the books.

It became law in 2018 and in the years since, Michigan workers have suffered. Wages and benefits were reduced and working people had less protections on the job. Now, thanks to a coalition similar to the one we had right here in Missouri, that law is now just footnote of history.

Not only did thousands of UFCW partners in Michigan participate in this fight — which included the familiar sight of thousands of union members flooding the state capitol — but the UFCW International and your very own Local 655 played a part as well.

MICHIGAN IS THE FIRST state to overturn and permanently repeal “right-to-work” after it was already on the books. – Bill Pugliano/Getty Images photo

When the leaders of the coalition to repeal ‘right-to-work’ in Michigan first began assembling a campaign strategy, I received more than one phone call seeking input on the steps to a successful campaign. One of my proudest accomplishments as leader of this organization was the role I played in 2018 as one of a handful of Labor leaders guiding the campaign from top to bottom. Several of the key campaign professionals from that effort found their way to Michigan, thanks in no small part to recommendations from people like myself.

I have been in regular contact with the Michigan campaign and I’m proud to say that I was able to provide insights and support whenever it was asked of me. Seeing victories like ours be duplicated across the country gives me some hope for the future. Knowing that even if bad laws are passed the people can rise up and overturn them is a sign that in some places our democracy, can and does, work.

It’s no small thing for regular citizens to lock arms and rise up against corporate power in this country. You have to be willing to be outspent and outgunned and you have to confront the possibility of losing. 

In fact, I’d argue that a foundational part of the Labor Movement is just that: losing.

We lose. We lose a lot. We lose organizing campaigns, we lose our rank-and-file, we lose whole employers and elections.

Nothing makes you appreciate winning like losing. Nothing reminds you that you’re doing important work more than losing over and over again and then, finally, making it across the finish line for a win.

The deck is usually stacked against working people in this day and age. Many of our Labor laws were written for corporations by their well-paid lobbyists, and those laws are designed to maximize profits, not people’s lives. Those same powerful forces have found influence in elected politics and the courts, and people whose only care in the world is another house, another boat, another bump in stock price, well those people will never really be on our side.

Those folks have purchased influence at a high price, and usually it works and the people lose. But losing doesn’t make anyone a loser. It was a famous actress, Mary Pickford, who said that failure was “not the falling down, but the staying down.”

We don’t stay down. We can’t afford to stay down. You learn a lot about yourself when you take a tough loss. When that punch lands you find out if you’re the kind of person who stays down in fear, or do you stand up and smile and get ready for round 2?

Organized Labor isn’t as strong as it used to be and the result has been a loss for the American worker by every measurable piece of data we have. However, despite those loses we are right here, fighting back every single day. We fought back in Missouri and we won. We fought back in Michigan and we won again. We will keep fighting, every single day, for the things we have lost.

We don’t stay down.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top